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THE MILITARY SYSTEM IN 
ANCIENT INDIA 


By 

BIMAL KANTI MAJUMDAR, m.a., d. phil. 
Professor of History, Asutosb College, Calcutta 


CALCUTTA . . 


THE WORLD PRESS LTD. 
1956 



All Rights Reserved 


First Edition 


Published by S. Bhattacharjee for the Wo*ld Press Ltd , 37, College 
Street, Calcutta-i2 and printed by Sri J. C. Sarkhel at the Calcutta 
Oriental Press Ltd., 9, Panchanan Ghose Lane, Calcutta-9. 



Dedicated to 

The sacred memory of my affectionate aunt 
Kstramohini Raya, who instilled into my mind a 
India’s mythology and ancient history. 


Srijukta 
love for 




PREFACE 

An attempt has been made in this little volume to 
trace the evolution of military system in Ancient India *witl} 
the Vedic period as the starting point of enquiry and ending 
with the Muslim conquest of Hindusthan, stress being 
solely laid on North Indian History. 

The field covered in these pages, I must confess, is by 
no means untrodden. Other scholars like E. W. Hopkins, 
G. T. Date, H. C. Ray, P. C. Chakravarti, R. C. Dikshitar 
have their work on one aspect or the other of this interest- 
ing topic. My treatment of the subject is somewhat 
different. It is chronological,— period by period, empire 
by empire with an eye to describing the military organisa- 
tion in the political background, for, a sound defence 
organisation is often an. aid to political expansion, and 
political expansion is a recurring phenomenon in Ancient 
Indian History. 

In preparing this book 1 have utilised to some extent 
the mass of materials embodied in Dr. P. C. Chakravarti’s 

1 t 

excellent 'work— 'The Art of War in Ancient India’ which 
is a thesis approved for the degree of the Doctor of Philo- 
sophy in the University of London. 

I mi*st acknowledge my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. J. N. 
Banerjce, m.a., pIi.d., f.r.a.s.b., Carmichael Professor of 
Ancient Indian History and Culture, Calcutta University, 



a 


fo& his ungrudging encouragement and invaluable guidance. 
My thanks are also due to Dr. R. G. Basak, M.A.,*ph.D.~ 
for hts kind advice and helpful suggestions. 1 am thankful 
to Prof. Haraprosad Chatterjee, M.A., my colleague in 
<Asutosb College, who, assisted me in many ways and also 
to my niece Srimatl Sila Ghosh whose constant encourage- 
ment has enabled me to write out this monograph under 
most difficult circumstances. 

“PRANTIK” 

P, 124, Lake View Road BlMAL KANTI MaJUMDAR 

Calcutta, 29 



LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS 


AG I 
AH 1 


Alt. Leben 
AWAI 


Beal-Life 


Beal-Rccords 

B.G. 

CHI 

CIl 

dhNi • 

Elliot ' 


EH 1 


— Ancient Geography of India by Cunning-’ 
ham, 1924. 

— Advanced History of India (Macmillan), 
1946. 

— Altindisches Leben, Berlin, 1879. 

—The Art of War in Ancient India by 
Dr. P. C. Chakravarty, published by 
General Printers, Calcutta, 1941. 

— The Life of Hiucn Tsang by Shaman 
Hwui Li, translated by S. Beal (London, 

I 9 I 0; 

— Buddhist Records of the Western World, 
translated, by S. Beal. 

— Bombay Gazetteer. 

— Cambridge History of India. 

— Corpus Inscriptionum Indicarum, Vol. Ill 
by Fleet, Calcutta, 1888. 

—Dynastic History of Northern India by 
Dr. H. C Ray, Calcutta University. 

— The History of India as told by its own 
historians, edited by Elliot and Dowson, 

18 77- 

— Early History of India, 4th Edn., by V. A. 
Smith. 



Ep. Ind. 

u 

— Epigraphia Indica. 

GI 

• — Gupta Inscriptions by Fleet. 

H.B. 

— History of Bengal, Vol. I (Dacca ♦Univer- 
sity), Calcutta, 1943* 

*H.C. 

— Harsacarita of Bana, translated by Cowell 
and Thomas. 

IA 

— Indian Antiquary, Bombay. 

IB 

— Inscriptions of Bengal, Vol. Ill by N. G. 
Majumdar. 

IC 

— Indian Culture, Calcutta. 

IHQ 

— Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. 

Jat 

— Jatakas, translated by Cowell. 

JAOS 

— Journal of the American Oriental Society. 

JR AS 

•—Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Bengal. 

JBORS 

— Journal of the Bihar and Orissa Research 
Society. 

JDL 

— Journal of the Department of Letters, 
Calcutta University. 

Kam 

— Kamandakiya Nltisara, Bengali translation 
by Ganapati Sarkar. 

Kaut 

— Kautilya’s Arthasastra, translation by 

Shyama Sastrl, Mysore, 1923. 

KFB 

— Kltab Fucuh al-Buldan of Baladhuri, 

translated by Hitti and Murgotten.. 

KH 

— Kltab-ul-Hind of al-Birum. 

KY 

— Kitab-i-Yamlnl of ’Utbl, translation by 
Reynolds (London). 

Mabhc 

— Mahabharata, English translation by P. C. 
Roy, (Calcutta). 



Ill 


MASI 

• 

— Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of 
India. 

MMKi 

— Arya-Manju-£ri-Mulakalpa, edited by K. P. 
fayaswal. 

OHI 

— Oxford History of India by Dr. V. fit. f>mitb. 

PHAI 

— Political History of Ancient India by 
Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri. 

Ram 

■ — Ramayana, English translation by M. N. 
Dutt (Calcutta). 

— Ramayana, English translation by R. T. H. 
Griffith. 

RC 

— Ramacarita edited by M. M. Haraprosad 
Sastri. 

RT 

— Rajatarangini, English translation by Sir 
Aurel Stein. 

RV 

— Rg Veda, English translation by R. T. H. 
Griffith, 2 Vols. 

Sukra 

— Sukraniti, English translation by B. K. 
Sarkar (Allahabad). 

SBE 

—Sacred Book of the East. 

SI 

— Select Inscriptions bearing on Indian 
History and Civilisation, by Dr. D. C. 
Sircar, Vol. I, Calcutta University. 

SII 

— South Indian Inscriptions. 

Sachaij 

— Alberuni’s India. 

T.F. 

— T’arikh-i-Firishta, translation by Briggs. 

T.N. 

— Tabaqati-Nasirl of Maulana Minhaj-Ud- 
dln, translation by Raverty. 

Y.C. 

— On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in India by 
T. Watters. 




TRANSLITERATION METHOD 



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following 

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noted 

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connection with the 

method 

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in 

this *work : 






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CONTENTS 

Introduction — Scope and sources 

Chapter I — Struggle for power and supremacy 
among the Vedic tribes : the art of war-, 
fare in the Vedic Age (C. 1 500 — 600 
B.C.) ... ... ... 

Chapter II — Development of the military system 
as outlined in the epic and puranic litera- 
ture (C. 500 B.C. — 40 0 A.D.) ... 

Chapter III — National defence in practice: The 
Age of Magadhan imperialism : The 
Maurya military system as described by 
Kautilya, Megasthenes and other classical 
writers (C. 600 — iS^ B.C.) 

Chapter IV — Military pursuits and national de- 
fence of the Hindus from the fall of the 
Mauryas to the end of the second 
Magadhan empire (C. 185 B.C. — 550 
A.D.) ... ... ... 

Chapter V— ^-The first Kanauj empire and its 
^military organisation: Disappearance of 
chariot or its partial subordination to 
elephant corps (C. 600— -650 A.D.) ... 


PACK 

1 

9 

35 

60 

I0 3 

126 



ii 


Chapter VI — The background of the Arab and 
Turkish menace and efforts of some im- 
portant ruling dynasties, — the Brahmana 
Cach dynasty of Sind, the Hindu Sahis 
# of Afghanistan and the Punjab, the 
Gurjara-Pratiharas of Kanauj, the Caha- 
manas of Sarnbar, Ajmere and Delhi, and 
the Gahadvalas of Kanauj and Varanasi 
for national defence (C. 650 — 

1192 A.D.) 

Chapter VII — Military power and organisation 
of the Gurjara-Pratlhara empire (C. 775 — 
1018 A.D.) 

Chapter VIII — Military organisation of the Pala 
empire (C. 750 — 1 1*50 A.D.) 

Chapter IX — Breakdown of Hindu military 

system 

Appendix — Bibliography 

Index 


'page • 


! 35 


16 


172 


181 

-*95 

203 


\J 1 



INTRODUCTION 


SCOPE AND SOURCES 

The instinct of selE-preservation which is so strong even 
among the lower animals, has been present in Man ever since 
the dawn oE human history. From the Palaeolithic times he 
has been fighting and defending himself against Nature and 
wild beasts, and with his steady march from barbarism to 
civilisation and the gradual development of intellectual pur- 
suits he has discovered weapons first to defend himself, then 
to defend his family and clan, and finally his own territory 
and nation. In India which is the home of one of the oldest 
civilisations of the world, the people passed through all these 
processes of individual, clan and territorial fighting in the 
different stages of their interestingly long and complicated 
history. The object of this monograph is to portray, as far 
as possible, a picture of the military system of ancient India 
and her methods of national defence with special reference 
to North Indian history. By Ancient India we mean the 
period of Indian chronicle beginning from the earliest times 
when some knowledgeable data about it are available and end- 
ing with the conquest of Hindustan by the Turks in the 
12th century A.D. It thus includes some portion of what 
may properly be called Early Mediaeval period for the sake 
of convenience and continuity. 

The archaeological discoveries at Mohenjo-daro, Sind and 
other places, — the remains of the so-called Indus Valley Civi- 
lisation iflumined by the researches of a band of scholars have 
proved the existences! ‘palaces’ with ancient foundations, 
of swords ‘and other weapons, offensive and defensive, of old 



2 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


fort-walls for citadel defence at some places and of watch- 
men^ quarters "at Mohenjo-daro. These startling discoveries 
tend to show that the people of the time (c. third millennium 
B. C) were properly armed, and realised early the value of 
•defence against aggressors. Thus, the Indus Valley data 
throw some interesting side-light on the earliest methods of 

military defence of the Indian people. 

• 

As in the realm of political speculations, so in the matter 
of the art of warfare, ancient Indians of the Vedic and post- 
Vedic periods undoubtedly thought a good deal. Their 
contributions in both these respects arc varied and consider- 
able. A distinct science called ‘Dhanurveda’ giving in 
detail the method of using the bow and the arrow and other 
weapons developed in India long ago. References to this 
science are found in Indian literature and inscriptions. In 
the Visnupurana 1 ‘Dhanurveda’ is considered as one of the 
eighteen branches of knowledge. It has been described as an 
Upaveda of the Yajurveda, “by which one can be proficient 
in fighting, the use of arms, and weapons and the use of, 
battle arrays.” 

t 

The history of ancient India is primarily a chequered his- 
tory of invasions, — of the rise and fall of countless kingdoms 
and republics. From the sixth century B.C. — a century from 
which it has been possible to present a connected political 
and dynastic history of Northern India, the country»ex- 
perienced a series of foreign invasions, and although the issue 
of such attacks very often went against India, there was no 
dearth of sturdy peoples and eminent princes who came for- 
ward to offer resistance to the enemies by organising strong 
defence of their mother country. No student of Indian His- 


i Wilson’s translation. VIII. 67. 



INTRODUCTION 


.3 


*toqy will ever forget such conspicuous names as those of Puru 
and Candragupta Maurya, Agnimitra and .Skanda Cupta, 
Nafasimha Baladitya and Dahir, Anandapala and Prthviraja 
whose records of services in the defence of their motherland 
are both brilliant and inspiring. Strabo’s 3 statemcrtt thaf 
ancient Indians did not cultivate the art of war does npt at 
all appear convincing, as in the Age of Alexander India was, 
in the words of classical writers, “a strongly defended coun- 
try, with a well organised army consisting of infantry, cavalry, 
elephants and war chariots”, and we may add that the qua- 
lity of her striving also had not been always below par. The 
brave resistance offered to the Macedonian invader by many 
independent states and autonomous tribes of the Punjab and 
Sind, viz. the Elder Poros, the Assakenians, the Aspasians, 
the Oxydrakai and the Malloi is a standing proof of it. 

THE SOURCES 

The sources for the study of. our subject fall under two 
heads — literary and archeological. The first, again, may be 
subdivided into (a) indigenous and (b) foreign. The indi- 
genous literary sources comprise first, the various branches 
of the Vedic literature. The Vedic literature contains many 
stray references to the method of warfare, the organisation 
of the army, the building of forts and strongholds and the 
we*apons of offence and defence generally used. These are, 
however, incidental in character, for, the main concern of 
this body of literature was about the religious beliefs and 
practices of the people, and these do not help us materially 
except filing in gaps in the historic chain by drawing cer- 
tain plausible conclusions. These sacred books of the Hin- 

2 Stfabo. XV. C. 701. 



4 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


dus, being essentially those of religion and philosophy,' do 
not supply us with a mass of useful information bearing on 
military ideas and practices in those far-off days. 

Next to the Vedic literature come the two Sanskrit Epics, 
the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, and the Puranas. The 
two epics being war poems embody materials which are essen- 
tial for the compilation of a military code and preservation 
of a military tradition of the period which is, for a variety 
of reasons, anterior to that of the Mauryas and of the classi- 
cal authors and Kautilya’s Arthasastra . 3 The Puranic litera- 
ture also supplies us with valuable information about various 
military matters. One cannot afford to ignore the Buddhist 
Pali works, particularly the Jatakas or the Birth Stories. These 
books composed in the Buddhist and post-Buddhist times 
contain pieces of information about the growth of cities, — 
their boundaries and outwork, the story of struggle for power 
among states in Northern India, — the account of trade routes, 
and sea voyages. These books again show that the ancient In- 
dians were in close touch with the sea and realised the im-. 
portance of coastal towns for purposes of commercial expan- 
sion, if not for territorial defence. To the third class of 
literary sources belong the works on Arthasastra and Nlti- 
sastra. The most important work on Arthasastra or the Art 
of Government is that attributed to Kautilya, the celebrated 
minister of Candragupta. The latter, as the contemporary 
and later evidence abundantly proves, built up a huge empire 
extending from the foot of the Himalayas in the north to 
the Podiyil hill in the south . 4 This empire was ably main- 
tained by an efficient standing army paid directly by the 


3 AWAI (Intro.), pp. IV. & V. 

4 K. Aiyenger : Beginnings of South Indian History, p. 89. 



INTRODUCTION 


5 

crown. 5 The Kautilyan Arthasastra is an excellent treatise 
on statecraft. It is a mine of information; It describes 
the formation of the army and the relative importance of 
its different branches. It speaks of different methods of war- 
fare, of different types of weapons, of battle arrays, of sieges,* 
of spies and poison gas. It devotes two long chapters (IX & 
X) to War. The Nitisara of Kamandaka (composed in the 
8th century A.D.), the Nltivakyamrta of Somadeva Suri 
(composed in the ioth century A.D.), the Yukti-Kalpataru 
attributed to King Bhoja of Dhara in Malwa who reigned 
in the nth century and the Manasollasa attributed to King 
Somesvara III who flourished in the Deccan between 1127 
and 1138, are higly informative works, and give a wealth 
of detail about certain aspects of the art of war. The im- 
portance of two other late works on statecraft, viz. the Nitisara 
of Sukra and the Niprakasika of Vaisampayana has been 
minimised on the ground that they contain reference to guns 
and gunpowder and consequently composed not earlier than 
the 1 6th century. 6 There are some interesting Sanskrit texts 
on Dhanurveda which throw considerable light on the art of 
warfare necessary to defend territories and annex dominions. 

The archaeological sources include the remains of ruined 
towns, sculpture, paintings, coins and inscriptions. In- 
ferences drawn from the study of these have yielded trust- 
worthy materials bearing on military practices in anciet India. 
Th« archaeological finds at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro have 
given us a list of weapons used some 4,500 years ago. The 
late Mr. N. G. Majumdar after examining the objects re- 


5 Cf# Megasthenes’ fifth class. Meg. Frag. XXXVI. 

6 Keith: History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 464. With regard 
to the latter Dr. P. C. Chakravarti (AWAI, p. IX) holds a different 


view. 



0 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


covered by him in two other sites, (Ali Murad and Kohcras 
Buthi) stated, ’‘The Cyclopean wall with which the area is 
girt and protected suggests its being the site of a fortress.” 7 
As a # rcsult of his further excavation at Harappa, (1946) 
Sir Mortimer Wheeler speaks of the citadel defences. 8 
The 'equipment of an Indian infantry is discernible on the 
Bcgur stone sculpture 9 and the bas-reliefs at Sanchi and 
Bharhut. In the fresco paintings at Ajanta soldiers are found 
carrying swords or spears in their right hand and shields in 
their left. 10 Inscriptions of many periods of ancient Indian 
history throw light on such things as the composition, nume- 
rical strength and equipment of Indian army. The Jsatavahana 
coins bear the figure of a two-masted sailing ship. 11 

The foreign sources constitute the writings of three 
classes of authors, viz. : 

(1) Greek and Latin. 

(2) Chinese. 

(3) Muslim. 

The notices of Alexander’s historians, — the writings of 
Greek envoys and those of Arrian, JDiodorus, Pliny, Q. Cur-' 
tius, etc. are by far the most illuminating source for the study, 
of the subject under review. Their accounts bristle with 
details about the method of warfare as practised in India in 
the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C., and in them we often notice 
attempts at elucidation of causes of success and failure in 
open clashes. 

The Chinese source comprising the accounts left parti- 
cularly by Fa-hien and Hiuen Tsang does not help us much 

7 MASI No. 48, pp. 132-33. 

8 Ancient India, Vol. Ill, pp. 63-64. 

9 Ep. Ind. VI. opp., p. 46. 

10 Lady Herringham: Ajanta Frescoes,’ PI. XVII •& XXII. 
Rapsou : Catalogue of Indian Coins, p. 22. 


1 1 



INTRODUCTION 


7 

except a general review of the Indian army and warlike 
habits of the people. Their attention was difcctcd more to 
matters religious and social than to political or military. 

The Muslim chroniclers are generally of great importance, 
as they have sought to give graphic pictures of the gradual, 
conquest of Hindusthan by the armies of Islam, although 
not without biased commentaries on Hindu defence. We 
are in complete agreement with Dr. Chakravarty when he 
observes, — They (the Early Muhammedan chroniclers) lack 
the range and catholicity of classical writers, and they usually 
present only one side of the picture . 12 

With the above-mentioned sources at our disposal an 
attempt will be made to sketch a tolerably consistent and 
chronological account of ancient Indian military system, — its 
merits and demerits, and finally to examine how far the art 
of war as practised in ancient times was fitted into the theory 
so profusely laid down in the Epics, Arihasastra and Niti- 
sastra in the shape of instructions to Rastrapatis. 


12 


AWAI, p. III. 




CHAPTER ONE 


STRUGGLE FOR POWER AND SUPREMACY 
AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 

THE ART OF .WARFARE IN THE VEDIC AGE 
(Circa 1500-600 B.C.) 

1. Aryan-Dasa Conflict. 

With the problem of Indian chronology still unsettled we 
begin the subject of our enquiry from the Vedic Age. Ac- 
cording to western scholars whose labours in the domain of 
Indology deserve unstinted praise, the Vedic Age of India 
extends from c. 1500 to 600 B.C. 1 2 It was essentially an 
age of emigration, settlement and expansion in India of the 
Aryan tribes who are supposed to have entered the country 
from some other region, “Like the Germans invading 
Italy, these Aryans were rather immigrants than conquerors. 
But they brought with them strong physiques, a hearty appe- 
tite in both solids and liquids, *a ready brutality, a skill and 
courage in war, which soon gave them the mastery of 

1 Max Muller fixes 1200-1000 B.C. as the date of the be- 
ginning of the Vedic poetry. Macdonell (Sanskrit Lit., p. 12) 
an*d* Keith (CFII Vol. I, pp. m-12) have supported Max Muller. 
Tilak and Yacobi pushed the date back on astronomical grounds. 
Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri (Studies in Indian Antiquities, p. 19) 
says that ‘the date of the rise of one at least of the Rgvedic 
kingdoms ^rannot possibly be pushed further back than the second 
millennium B.C.’ 

2 According to B* G. Tilak the original habitat of the Aryans 
lay on Artie region. CHI. places it on the Danube. 



10 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

* r 

northern India They wanted land and pasture for their 

cattle, their word for war said nothing about national 
honour, but simply meant ‘a desire for more cows.’ (Will 
Durant: The Story of Civilisation, p. 397). 

•4 

Our information about the period, — political, social, 
economic and religious, is solely based on the Vedic litera- 
ture. The Rgveda is the earliest literary record of the Indo- 
Aryan race, and as such gives us an insight into the method 
of warfare along with other things of great value. For a 
time, there was much fighting and severe struggle for power 
and supremacy among the Vedic tribes. The Vedic hymns 
arc replete with accounts of continual warfare among the 
Aryans and the complete Aryanisation of the land could not 
be effected before several centuries had elapsed. We hear 
of frequent clashes between the Aryans and the Aryans, bet- 
ween the Aryans and the non-Aryans who have been vari- 
ously described as Dasas, Dasyus or Anasah. The Rgvedic 
God (Indra) is conceived as an eminent warrior and a great 
leader of tribes, the thunderbolt wielder (R. V. I, 32). H? 
is addressed as a Sura possessing heroism. He pulled down 
the strongholds of Dasyus, scattering their numberless army 
(A.V. VIII. 8. 1-7). “He whom both battle lines call 
upon in the fray, both adversaries on this side and on that, 
he whom they invoke, standing on chariots, that, O men, 
is Indra.” 3 “Thou, O Indra, dost strike the foes, both 
Aryan and the Dasyu.” 4 ......The warriors who leag\i£d 

together against us, whether kindred or strange, break their 
might.” 8 “Whatever contemners of the gods, be they Dasa, 
be they Arya, O, glorious Indra, do battle against them, 
give us an easy victory over them, thy foes.” 6 “TI^:y (Indra 


3 R.V. II. 12. 8. 

5 Ibid. VI. 25. 3. 


4/ Ibid. VI. 33. 3. 
6 Ibid. X. 38. 3. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VED1C TRIBES I> 

and’Agni) strike the foes, both Aryan and Dasa .” 7 Ipdra 
is thus the god par excellence, and ‘an evfcr-figbting and 
never conquered hero’. 

2. Tribal Confederations. 

The Anus, Yadus, Purus, Turvasas and Druhyus arc the 
live earliest tribes (pancajanah ) 8 who figure prominently in 
the Rgveda. Other tribes like the Bharatas, Trtsus, Srnja- 
yas, Pancalas, Matsyas, Usinaras, etc., became prominent later 
on. Of the five Rgvedic tribes the Purus, living on the 
Sarasvatl, were destined to play a very important part in the 
later Vedic history. As the expansion of these tribes pro- 
ceeded, there developed tribal confederations forjoffence and 
defence. Divodasa, father or grandfather of Sudasa of the 
Trtsu family of the Bharata 8 * tribe had conflicts with the 
Turvasas, Yadus and Purus . 9 He also fought successfully 
with the Panis, the Paravatas and the Brsayas. One of the out- 
standing events in Vedic military history was the Battle of 
the Ten Kings . 10 It was an engagement on the bank of the 
river Parusni. Sudasa, son fit grandson of Divodasa and 
leader of the Bharata tribe, inflicted a defeat on a canfedera- 
tion of ten enemy kings, some coming from the north-west. 
In this battle the Anu and Druhyu kings were drowned and 
another killed in action. This bloody encounter was the out- 
come af the rivalry between the two priests, — Vasistha and 
Visvamitra and the confederation of the ten kings against 

7 Ibid VI. 60. 6. 8 Ibid VIII. 6. 46, 48. 

8a It is interesting to note that Ludwig has identified the 
Bharat as \^ith the Trtsus. According to Geldner the Trtsus were 
the royal family of the Bharatas and this is considered' by Dr, A. 
D. Pusalker.to be the correct view. (Vedic India, p. 24 6). 

9 Ibid IX. fix. 2 10 Ibid VII. 18. 33, 83. 



12 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Sudasa was organised by the latter. The selection of river banks 
as the theatre of battles and device of driving the enemies into 
the river appear to be one mode of Aryan warfare. After this 
victory Sudasa seems at once to have been compelled to return 
jto tfie. east of his kingdom to meet the attacks of a King, 
BhecU under whom three tribes, the Ajas, Sigrus and Yakshus 
were united and to have defeated his new assailants with great 
slaughter on the Yamuna .’* 11 The success of the Bharatas in 
the battle of ten kings increased their prestige and made them 
pre-eminent among the Aryan tribes. This is the reason why 
Satapatha Brahmana says, — “The greatness of the Bharatas 
neither the men before nor those after them attained.” Apart 
from the story of continuous conflict among themselves the 
Aryan folks had encounters with the non-Aryans and this 
eventually led to the extension of their eastern frontier. “He 
(Indra) smote the Dasyus, and gave protection to the Aryan 
colour .” 12 Divodasa, king of the Trtsu family of the Bharata 
tribe, inflicted a stunning defeat upon a Dasa chieftain 
Sambara . 13 The Bharatas under Visvamitra organised an ex- 
pedition against the Kikatas, a non-Aryan people residing in 
South Bihar or Magadha. In tfi,e campaign against the Dasas, 
the Bharatas acted in concert with their rivals the Purus, 
“one of whose kings bore the significant name of Trasadasyu, 
i. e. Terror to the Dasyus.” The wars which the Vedic 
tribes waged against the people whom they found in 
India were not always aggressive. Their were wars,, of 
necessity. “They came into effective conflict with the people 


ii R.V. III. 33, 53, 9 — 12. 12 Ibid III. 34, 9. 

13 Ibid I. 136, 7; 

II. 11, 12; 

VI. 26, 5; 

VII. 18, 20. 



^STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 13 

• 

a Uej^° their culture who would not suffer the intrusion of 
foreigners into their ancient and simple habitat. It was hatu- 
ral that 4 they rose in revolt and the intruding tribes were 
forced to defend themselves against the armed attacks of the 
natives of the soil. Thus, the defence complex fir<;d 'their . 
psychological impulses, and the result was the outbreak of 
hostilities.’' 14 


3. Evolution of Tribal Kingship 

In course of time the Bharata tribe grew powerful and de- 
feated the Purus. In the later Vedic period the Bharatas and 
the Purus coalesced to form Kuru nation 16 whose exploits 
fill the pages of romantic epic tale. “The Paurava connection 
of the Kurus is suggested by the Rigvedic hymn (X. 33. 4) 
which refers to ‘Kuru Sravana’ as a descendant of Trasadasyu, 
a famous king of the Purus. The connection of the Bharatas 
with the Kurus is also attested by Vedic evidence.” 18 Tribal 
wars and rumours of wars often disturbed the peaceful tenor 
of Vedic life. Thus, war played a large part in the life of 
the Vedic Aryans. The hymns of the Vedas describe a state 
of perpetual war in which kingship was a necessary institution. 
There are several theories regarding the origin of kingship 
(Sat. Br. V. 3. 3; Mabht. Santi P. Rajadharma Sec. Chaps. 
59 and 67), but the one that it arose out of the elaborated 
authority of the successful military leader describes the real 
sta*t? of affairs and seems historically sound. We have the 
following account in the Aitareya Brahmana (I. 14). 


14 Dikshitar — War in Ancient India, p. 3. 

15 V.lf Vol. I. 167. 322. 

Oldenberg — Buddha, pp. 406-409. 

16 PHAI, 5th Ed., p. 23. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


l6 


blies, Roman Comicia Centuriata and the assemblies 
of the Teutonic nations. 


(c) It disappeared as a useful organ of the acfministra- 
tion as the states grew in size and royal authority 
increased. 


(d) The Sabha continued to exist, and in the historical 
period it reappeared as an aristocratic body in the 
shape of the King’s Council or the Mantriparisad 
mentioned in the Mahabharata and the Artha- 
sastra. 84 


4. Territorial Expansion 

It is obvious from the Nadlstuti 84 (River hymn) of the 
Rgveda that the Aryans at first settled in the Kabul valley 
and the Punjab. In the period of the later Saihhitas, Brah- 
manas, etc. (c. 1000 — 600 B.C.) the Aryandom had been 
shifted from Northwest India and the Punjab to the Gangetic 
plain, — the land between the Ganga and the Yamuna, — the 
so-called Madhyadesa. “The Gangetic plain was the strong- 
hold of the older population. Tfce Aryan invasion of this 
tract had, therefore, to be attempted in large masses, so as 
to make attack or defence successful. Large communities 
took the place of the old Aryan tribes and the old tribal heads 
were replaced by powerful leaders of national levies.” 88 The 
Bharatas, who did much fighting and won fresh laurels in the 
earlier period and advanced as far east as the land o£*fhe 
Kasis, now recede into the background, although the echo of 
their military exploits is heard in a passage of the Satapatha 


24 Santiparva, Chap. 35. 

Kaut., p. 33. 

25 R.V. X. 75. 

26 R. S. Aiycngcr— History of India, Pt. I, pp. *25-26. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 17 

• 

Brahmana. Bharaca Daushanti, son of nymph Sakuntala 
defeated the Satvants winning victories on the banks of the 
Ganga a/id the Yamuna .* 7 Satrajira defeated Dhrtarasdra, a 
powerful king of the Kasis . 28 A later descendant of Pratipa 
mentioned in the Atharvaveda was Janamcjaya whost^ horsey 
sacrifice is solemnized in the datapaths Brahmana. The Age 
of the Kuru-Pancalas 29 in Madhyadesa was dawning. They 
are located definitely in the Middle country or Madhyadesa . 80 

The war with the aborigines and the struggle for supre- 
macy among the various Vedic tribes resulted in the Aryan 
conquest of Northern India and establishment of not one but 
a number of Janarajyas. The Kuru* Pancalas appear on the 
stage of history as a united nation in the Brahmana period, 
and a period of territorial expansion at once began. The Kurus 
(i.e the Bharatas, the Purus and other allied tribes of the $g- 
vedic times ) 31 founded a kingdom near about the modern Delhi 
with their capital at Asandivat. The Pancalas occupied the 
land to the north of the Kuru country with their capital at 
Kampilya (near Bareilly, Budaun Farukhabad and the adjoin- 
ing district of the U.P .). 32 The Kosalas became supreme in 
Ayodhya (Oudh) on the river Sarayu. The Matsyas flouri- 
shed in the Jaipur region. Th*e Surasenas rose to prominence 

27 Sat. Br. XIII. 5. 4. 11. 

28 Ibid XIII. 5. 4. 19-23. 

*"29 ‘The external history of the Pancalas is mainly that of wars 
and alliances with the Kurus. The Mahabharata preserves tradi- 
tions of conflict between the Kurus and the Pancalas. We are 
told by the Epic that Uttar-Pancala, was wrested from the Pancalas 
by the K^irus and given away to their preceptor.’ PHAI, 5th Ed., 

p. 73. * 

30 Ak Br. VIII. 

31 Sat. Br. II. 4. 4. 5. 32 PHAI, p. 70 


MSAI — ?, 



|8 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

* 

in the Mathura area. The Kasis raised their head in Varanasi,* 
and *in the east the Vedehas grew powerful with their 
capital at Mithila in North Bihar. There are reasons to be- 
lieve that of the kingdoms and peoples mentioned in the 
Vcdie .texts, the Kurus enjoyed a sort of primacy among 
others under their King Janamejaya, who performed Asva- 
medha sacrifice and annexed Taksaslla. 33 Next in order of suc- 
cession, .the Kingdom of Videha with its capital at Mithila 
came to the forefront under the ‘Philosopher King’ Janaka, 
who bore the title of Samrat. Supremacy then passed to and 
was retained by Kosala, which for a time contested with the 
Kasis for control over Madhyadesa until the rise of Magadha 
to overmastering power under Bimbisara. This is how Dr. 
H. C. Ray Chaudhuri of the Calcutta University has tried 
by his profound scholarship to establish a rational link in the 
chain of political events from the later Vedic times to the 
advent of the Sisunagas under Srenika Bimbisara in the mid- 
dle of the sixth century B.C. 34 The imperialistic idea was em- 
bedded in the Rgveda itself (III. 55. 7. 56. 5 IV. 21.1 VI. 27. 8. 
VIII. 19.32). The Magadhan expansion was a corollary to it. 

In Daksinapatha (the Deccan) the progress of the Aryans 
was rather slow. The first Aryan province in trans-Vindhyan 
India appears to have been Vidarbha or Berar. Other Aryan 
settlements like Dandaka, Assaka, Kalinga also arose. 33 Non- 
Aryan (Dasyu) tribes like the Andhras, the Pulindas, the 
Sabaras and also Mutibas existed. 36 According to Sir R. G. 
Bhandarkar, 37 ^ the Aryans had become familiar with the 

33 Mbht. I. 3. 20. 

34 Vide PHAI 5th ed. relevant chapters in Part I. 

35 The rest of the Deccan was in Dasyu hands. Ibicft p. 92. 

36 Ait. Br, VII. 18. 

37 Early History of the Dekkan, p. 16. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES I<} 

whole country down to Tanjorc and Madura by 350 
B.C. During the Aryan occupation of the Deccan* land 
(Daksinjipatha) excluding the Tamil countries of the Far 
South which remained unsubdued, there were frequent 
clashes with the aborigines, and in their struggle for e$istence ( 
the northern invaders passed through varied political fortunes 
till the unification of the Deccan was brought about in the 
first century B.C, 38 under the Satavahanas or the so-called 
Andhras of the Puranas. 


5. Rise of the Warrior Caste: Ksatriyas 

With the expansion of the Aryandom eastward, west- 
ward and southward in the post-Brahmanic period and the 
rise of warlike kings and princes, there emerged a nobility 
skilled in the art of war, and on this class devolved the duty 
of defending the realm from outside aggression and internal 
discord. As this class came to display a fighting capacity 
and sturdy valour, it created a name, and before long set up 
a separate class, the Ksatriya or the Rajanya. 3 * By way of 
digression a word may be ^aid here about the Aryan social 
institution, the caste. In the Rgvedic period we find the 
earliest conception of the threefold or even fourfold division 
of the community, — viz. Brahmanas representing ‘holy 
power,’ Ksatriyas representing ‘kingly power’ and Vaisyas 
representing the community of traders. According to most 
scholars, 40 caste with its restrictions on diet, marriage and pro- 

38 For the date of Simuka see PHAI, 5th Ed, p. 408. 

39 The term ‘Ksatra’ is to be found in R. V. I. 24. 11., II. 
136. i-3; # IV. 17. 1.; V. 62. 6. and ’Ksatriya’ in R. V. IV. 12.3.; 
42. 1,; V. 69. 1; VII. 64. 2.; VIII. 25. 8. 

40 “The words ‘Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vailyas and Sudlras 
were names of classes rather than of castes during the pre-Bud- 



20 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


fession developed in the later Vedic period. 41 The Ptwsrf- 
sukta hymn (R.V.X. 90) which is supposed to state the ori- 
gin o f caste gives “merely a philosophical explanation, — a 
theory of creation,” and nothing more. The fourth caste 
or the, servile caste arose possibly with the admission of the 
non-Aryans or Dasas into the Aryan social system. ‘‘The 
admission,” writes K. V. R. Aiyenger, “of the rude non- 
Aryan tribes within the pale of the Aryan social system pre-‘ 
vented grave racial struggles, while their relegation to the 
lowest class in the scheme saved the Indo-Aryan element 
from being overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the 
aborigines.” 43 From the division of the people into four 
classes with well-defined duties we may infer that the Aryans 
felt even in that remote age the necessity of an organised 
self-defence. In the period of Brahmanical ascendancy the 
fighting class or the Rajanyas had been created, and its con- 
tribution towards the extension and consolidation of Aryan 
realms must have been very great. While the Aryans were 
still in the tribal stage, the people was called vis (lit. clan). 
But this period of the Aryan settlement in India was really 
the time of continuous warfare. Accordingly, the fighting peo- 
ple grouped themselves into several clans and came to be 
known as ‘Rajanyas’ and the class itself turned out to be 
Ksatriyas. 13 The duties of the Ksatriyas have been defined 


dhistic period. Varna, once a common name of all classes came 

to mean a caste in post-Buddhistic literature”. Evolution of Caste. 
Shyama Sastri. pp. 13 — 14. 

41 For a detailed discussion on the subject of Apte: flic 

Vedic Age. Vd. I. Chap. XXIII. v 

42 History of India. Pt. I, p. 30.; Thee Vedic Age, p. 355. 

43 Studies in Indian Social Polity, p. 155. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 2JI 

• 

fh several Vedic texts. 44 “They were,” writes Sri S. Radha- 
krishnan, “the defenders of society from external aggression 
and internal disorder. The military organisation of the state 
was entrusted to them. They were in charge of political 
arrangements. It was not the intention of the Hindu DhTarma, 
to make the entire body of the people act as a general 
militia.” 48 The Ksatriyas or Rajanyas of the Rgvedic period 
probably constituted a hereditary class. It is necessary to 
remove at the very outset a common misconception regarding 
the fighting classes in ancient India. “The notion that the 
military profession was the exclusive monopoly of the Ksatri* 
yas caste” is baseless, and this is true of the statement made 
by Wheeler (History of India I. p. 77.) ‘‘that except in some 
widely supernatural legends, the Brahmanas are not repre- 
sented as warriors.” 46 While discussing the psychological 
background of war in ancient India Prof Diskshitar 47 states, — 
“Being born warriors and,barred by rules from taking to 
other professions, the Ksatriyas were impatient of peace. In 
fact, it is the psychological barrenness of peace that led to 
many wars in India’s ancient history.” We do not, however, 
share his views. This wtir-mindedness was not true of all 
periods of India’s ancient history nor was it peculiar to India 
alone. The Aryans were compelled to wage countless wars 
no doubt, and these were not always wars of extermination 
in the proper sense of the word. Their penetration into the 
Sguth, for example, was peaceful and not undertaken with 
sword in hand. 48 

44 V. I/Vol. I, p. 202. 

45 The Heart of Hindusthan., p. 33. 

46 AWAI, p. 78. 

47 War in A. I, # p. 11. 

48 Carmichael Lectures, First Series, 1918. 



22 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


6. Army Organisation & Methods of Warfare 

• 

Passing on how to the consideration of the army organi- 
sation in the early Vedic times we find that the Vedic King 
had p t o standing army. The Hindu monarchical state did 
not possess standing armies before the sixth century B. C. 
If Jayaswal is to be believed, it was essentially a civil state 
and never became a military polity. (Hindu Polity P. IV. 
189). In times of war with neighbouring countries and 
tribes, he had to depend upon local levies who brought their 
own arms and weapons and were led by their own chief. 49 
A general levy of the entire mass was absent, although the 
Cambridge History of India seems to believe that all the 
men of the tribe took part in the war. 80 Profs. Macdonell 
and Keith 31 say that “In war the Vaisyas must have formed 
the bulk of the forces under the Ksatriya leaders. They, 
however, reject the theory of Zimmern that the Vedic host 
fought according to clan (vis), village (grama) and family 
(Alt. Leben. p. 162). The theory had its basis on the terms 
like Sardha. Vrata and Gana. 83 It is interesting to note that 
the Vedic literature contains no reference to India’s traditional 
four-fold army — i.e. the caturahgabala and caturangacamu 
of the Mahabhlrata. The army of the Vedic age consisted 
of Patti (foot soldiers) and Rathins (car warriors). In connec- 
tion with the coronation ceremony described in the Sata- 
patha Brahmana (V. 3. 1.) Senan! (Commander-in-chief), 
and Suta (charioteer) are mentioned among the Ratnins or 


49 A. C. Das — Rgvedic Culture, pp. 340-41. 

50 CHI Vol. I, ’p. 98. 51 V. I. Vol II, p. 334. 

52 Dr. Apte (The Vedic Age, p. 355) infers from these 

terms the knowledge of battle-arrays of different types. They 

denoted at least different military units. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VED1C TRIBES 2J 

• 

jewels,’ — apparently as members of the king’s military 
service. It was only in the post- Vedic period that the* em- 
ployment of cavalry (mounted soldiers) and elephants came 
into vogue. In the Rgveda the elephant was regarded as a 
wild animal, and it was not used for war. There is np •men- 
tion of the horse being used in war. 43 Dr. A. C. Das 4< * 
seems to believe that horses were used in battle in the Flgvedic 
period. Dr. P. C. Chakravarty, 45 however, does not agree 
with him as the quotations cited by the former in support 
of his contention are not very convincing. Thus, it is clear 
that infantry and car-worriors fighting from chariots formed 
the regular feature of the Vedic military organisation. Not 
only in ancient India, the same was the practice all over the 
ancient world. As regards the size of the armies brought 
into the field during the Aryan-Dasa struggle, the Vedic 
poets mention large numbers fighting especially on the side 
of the Dasyus and destroyed by Indra, the Rgvedic God of 
Battle. In Rgveda (I.53 .9 ) the number given is 60,000; in 
R.V. IV. 16. 13. it is 50,000, and in R.V. IV. it is 30,000 
(Muir — Original Sanskrit Text, Vol. V, p. 471). How 
battles were fought in earfy Vedic period is clear from the 
description of Kaegi : 46 

“When an enemy approaches the Aryan boundaries, 
earthworks are thrown up, a barricade of timbers created, 
impassable bulwarks of bronze made and sacrifices offered 
to the gods to secure their help. Then the army advan- 
ces with loud battle-songs with the sound of drums and 
trumpets, with waving banners against the opposite force. 


53 (?HI Vol, I, p. 137. 

54 Rgvedic Culture, pp. 223-26. 

55 AWAI, p. 33. 56 The Rgveda Intr., p. 19. 



• 2 /\ MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

The warrior stands at the left of the chariot, and besjde 
him the charioteer, and the footsoldiers fight in close lines, 
village beside village, tribe beside tribe. The warrior is 
protected by brazen coat of mail and helmet; with the 
btwv he hurls against the enemy feathered arrows with 
poisoned tips of horn or metal, or presses on with spear, 
and axe, lance and sling. And when the enemy is 
conquered, loud rejoicing resounds with the beat of 
drums, like the noise of the rising storm; the sacred fire 
is kindled to offer to the gods a song and sacrifice of 
thanksgiving, and then to divide the spoil.” 

The Aryans seem to have frequently raided neighbour- 
ing territories in quest of booty besides ordinary wars of 
defence and conquest. 57 One possible method of siege war- 
fare consisted in setting fire to surrounding walls of wood 58 
as the Peloponnesians did in connection with the siege of 
Plataea. 50 

From the military point of view the part which the Puro- 
hita (king’s chaplain) played as the king’s wellwisher and 
adviser seems interesting enough. In the Vedic age the king 
was encouraged in battle by the purohita with prayers 
and mantras. According to the” Sutra Literature (Asvalayana 
Grhya Sutra III. 1 2) before a battle ensues the purohita 
stands to the west of the chariot and chants mantras appro- 
priate to the occasion from the Rgveda. He himself arms 
the king with bow, arrow ana armour and even recites 
mantras over the horses. He was to be fully conversant 
with Sastra (military art), Sastra (rituals) and Dandanlti. 
We know from the same source that the king "should com- 


57 V. I. Vol. II, P . 417. 

Sayana’s interpretation of R. V. X. i\2. 4. 

58 R. V. V.II, 5, 3. 59 Thucy. tr.,* p. 115. 



. STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 25 

nlcnpc the battle in the formation invented by Aditya or by 
Usanas.” It is, therefore, beyond the range of doubt Ithat 
the ritual, literature is not wholly innocent or battle arrays 
and war tactics. 

As to the equipment of the Vedic infantry, our in/ortna- 
tion is so scanty that nothing can be stated definitely. In An- 
cient Greece heavy-armed footmen were employed by Sparta 
during the Messenian war. Formerly infantry fought in an 
old fashioned manner. Each soldier took part in action not 
in an orderly manner but as courage and opportunity might 
afford. So no united effort was made to ensure success, and 
in the new method adopted later by the Spartans and others 
“regiments of mailed foot-lancers marched and fought in 
close ranks .” 60 Like a combatant on a chariot overcoming 
men fighting on foot, Agni is represented in the Atharvaveda 
as conquering the most powerful enemies . 61 This analogy 
seeks to minimise the importance of the infantry in relation 
to the charioteer. In all probability, the personal ability 
of a car-warrior counted more than the overwhelming num- 
ber of footmen in a battle. The role of Indian footsoldiers, 
as embodied especially itvthe Epic literature, is not com- 
mendable. They fell in thousands without contributing 
practically anything to the decisian .of battles. The Vedic 
and Epic military tactics bear a close resemblance to those 
followed in Mediaeval Europe when feudalism was at its 
height . 63 

Considerable difficulty is experienced in the matter of 
stating what the Vedic arms and weapons exactly were. But 


60 Bury: History of Greece for beginners, p. 3r. 

61 A. V. VII., 62. *r. 

62 AWAl. pp. 15-16. 



26 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


the principal weapon in those days certainly were the, bow 
and* the arrow. There are frequent references to them in the 
Rgveda. 63 The importance attached to the bow as,the wea- 
pon of offence and defence is only too apparent. It is no 
exaggeration to say that the history of the bow as the most 
effective weapon of war goes to the distant past and it retained 
its * usefulness till the introduction of firearms, and to speak 
the truth, ‘‘throughout the ancient period it gave its 
name to military science (Dhanurveda) and proficiency in its 
use was the measure of a man’s reputation as a warrior.” 64 
Apart from the bow and the arrow, we find mention of lan- 
ces, spears, swords, axes and sling stones, but their use as 
defensive weapons does not seem to be very frequent. 65 The 
Atharvavcda (VIII. 8) speaks of the armament of weapons, 
snares, traps and nets to confuse the enemy and secure its 
discomfiture. 

7. Banners and War Music 

The Vedic heroes used banners in their wars. The word 
‘Dhvaja’ (banner) occurs twice in the Rgveda (VII. 85. 2;‘ 
X, 103, 11). Instruments used f<Jr war music are mentioned. 
We find references to Dundubhi (R. V. I. 10. 3) and 
Bankura (Pancavithsa Br. V. 5. 19). The former was a 
kettledrum and an earthdrum and the latter was a musical 
instrument whose use is frequent in times of war. 

8. Forts and Arsenals 

It is worthwhile discussing if the people of the Vedic age 
did anything to build forts and arsenals as defensive measures 

63 R. V. II, 24. 8; VIII. 7. 4; IX. 99; X. 18. 9, 125. 6 etc. 

64 AWAI p. 132. 

65 V. I. Voi. II, p 417 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THF VEDIC TRIBES 2J. 

• 

Id those days of insecurity the Aryan tribes must have lived 
in awe of hostile attacks from the non-Aryai> tribes whom 
they ultimately subdued and assimilated. There arc many 
verses in the sacred book of hymns which prove that the 
non-Aryans or Dasyus possessed forts and strongholds in 
large numbers.* 8 In trie course of conquest and settlement 
the Indo-Aryans had to repel countless attacks from different 
parts of the country and we know that their opponents 
possessed forts. Hence it is quite possible that although the 
Aryans had no forts of their own, “the resources of fortifica- 
tion which they captured from the non-Aryans probably 
stood them in good stead, and they utilised them to the 
best of their ability.” 67 It is difficult to throw light upon 
the nature of these strongholds, i. e. their size, shape and 
especially the material with which they were built. They 
are often described as made of stone (asmamayl), sometimes 
of sun-dried bricks (arna, lit. raw. unbaked). They are also 
described as board and wide (prthvl and urvi). 66 According 
to one authority, “they were built of hardened earth with 
palisades, and a ditch.” 69 Then again, there is a reference 
to ‘the pur carisnu, or ntoving fort (R. V. VIII. I. 2-8) 
which may have been an engine for assaulting strongholds,’ 
but Hildebrandt thinks that the pur carsnu of the Rgveda 
was a kind of chariot. 69 ' 

Dr. Mortimer Wheeler, the late Director General of 
Archaeology, Government of India, noted, in his report on 
fresh discoveries in Harappa, 1946, the existence of massive 
fortifications. The principal mound at Harappa constituted 
a high citadel with a mud brick defence, 40 ft, wide and 

66 R.V. II. 19, 6; 14. 6; 20. 8; IV. XXVI. 3. 

67 AWAL. p. 12ft 68 R. V. I. 189. 2. 

69 V. I.* I. p. 539. 69a Ibid, II, p. 417. 



28 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

40 ft. high, faced externally by a wall of burnt brick. ,Dh 
Wheeler 70 suggested that it was these fortifications which 
certain verses in the Rgveda credited Indra with having des- 
troyed. “The Aryan invasion of the Land of the Seven 
Riv£fs„ the Punjab and its environs,” he writes, “constantly 
assumes the form of an onslaught on the walled cities of the 
aborigines. 71 For these cities, the term used in the Rgveda 
is pur meaning a rampart, fort or stronghold. One is called 
broad (prthvl) and wide (urvi). Sometimes strongholds are 
referred to metaphorically as of metal (ayasi). Autumnal 
(Saradi) forts are also named. This may refer to the forts in 
that season being occupied against Aryan attacks or against 
inundations caused by overflowing rivers. Forts with a 
hundred walls (Satabhuji) are mentioned... Indra, the Aryan 
War God is purandara, fort-destroyer. He shatters ninety 
forts for his Aryan protege, Divadasa (I. CXXX. 7). The 
same forts are doubtless referred to where in other hymns he 
demolishes variously ninety-nine and a hundred ‘ancient 
casdes’ of the aboriginal leader Sambara. In brief, he rends 
forts as age consumes a garment.” But there is some diffi- 
culty in accepting the above hs Aryan forts. Sir John 
Marshall regards the Indus Valley civilisation as something 
quite distinct in point of* time and quality from the Vedic 
civilisation. The position becomes untenable unless we agree 
with the view advocated by Dr. Pusalker that ‘the Rgvedic 
Aryans probably formed an important part of the populace in 


70 Harappa — 1546. Ancient India, Vol. HI, p, 82. 

71 The Harappa civilisation centred on fortified cities. The 
sudden fall of these cities makes, according to Stuart Riggott, the 
identification of the Dasyus and Dasas with inhabitants (a large 
section of them being Proto-Austroloids) of Harappa and Mahenjo- 
daro something near to a certainty. Prehistoric India, p. 161. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THF VF.DIC TRIBES 2Q 


those days, and contributed their share to the evolution of 
the Indus Valley civilisation’. 72 

9; Sea Navigation : Ships and Aerial Navigation 

y - 

When the entire Vedic period is taken into consideration ' 
and the researches done by a host of scholars are borne* in 
mind, it can be safely asserted that the ancient Indians had 
the knowledge of sea navigation. Their spirit of adventure, 
so beautifully reflected in the Jdtakas 73 - and other texts, 
enabled them in pre-Christian era to undertake trading 
voyages to distant shores, across the seas and establish com- 
mercial relations with such countries as Assyria, Babylon, 
Arabia and the lands bordering on the Eastern Mediterra- 
nean and the region of the Eastern peninsula. Quite a 
different view is held with regard to the Rgvedic period. 
According to the Cambridge History of ancient India (Vol. 1. 
p. 79), — “The Indus was the natural outlet to the sea for the 
Aryan tribes, but in the period of the Rgveda there is no clear 
sign that they had yet reached the ocean. No passage even 
renders it possible that $ea navigation was known.” But 
scholars like Max Muller (SBE Chap. XXXII, pp. 6 if), 
Macdonell and Keith (Vedic Index Vol. II. p. 422) have 
stated that ocean was known to the Vedic people. Boats and 
ships do occur in the earliest book of the Aryans. 74 “Do thou 
convey us in a ship across the sea for our welfare” 7 ® is a 
clear indication of sea-going vessels. The knowledge of the 


72 The Vedic Age, I. p. 195. 

73 Bavgru Jat (No 339), Valahasa Jat (No. 196). Samkha Jat. 
No. (422), Mahajanaka Jat (No. 539). 

74 R- V. I. 116. g ,*lbid, X. 101. 2. Also Sat. Br. IV. 2. 5. 10 

75 Ibid," I. 17. 8. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


. 3 ° 

high tide is often referred to in the Rgveda (I. 48. 3). # Thc 
account of the Asvins conveying the rescued bhujya by means 
of winged ships 76 leads Prof. Dikshitar 77 to think that it may 
refer to aerial navigation in the earliest time. This will be 
goihg.too far. It is better to take it as a piece of poetic 
fancy. But ‘acquaintance with the sea is rendered probable 
by reference to the 'treasures of the deep.’ If the identifi- 
cation of the Vedic ‘mana’ with the Babylonian ‘Manah’ is 
correct, we have indubitable testimony to a very early inter- 
course between Vedic India and distant lands beyond the 
seas.’ 78 Now the more important question, — a question 
which forms the corner-stone of India’s seaward defence — the 
question whether and when Indians built ships for military 
operations in Indian seas and waterways, must remain vague 
and uncertain till one reaches the age of the Great Mauryas. 
Prof. Dikshitar 7 ® is of the opinion that ships for warfare 
existed on a modest scale even in the Rgvedic period. He 
finds reference to 'a ship sailing heavenward’ in the Satapatha 
Brahmana. To credit the Vedic age with such progress in 
military science as the creation of a warmarine is rather 
fanciful. It will not be out of place here to make some ob- 
servations on the circumstances which compelled the people 
of the ancient world to Jbuild ships for trade, colonisation, 
and conquest. The Phoenicians, belonging to the Semitic 
race, were perhaps the earliest colonising and commercial peo- 
ple. They built in the dim past merchant vessels to carry on 
trade with different parts of the then world. Their entire 
attention was focussed on trade and not on political dorni- 

76 R. V. I. 117 

77 War in Ancient India, p. 278, 

78 AHI, p. 35. 

79 War in A. I., p. 191. 



. STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 3 1 , 

Qron. By their wonderful skill in commerce and navigation 
they came to exercise an effective control ov«r the Mcdi- 
terranean # world, thereby connecting the East and the West. 
Of the nations of the ancient classical world, the Hellenes 
were the prominent example of a seafaring nation wild* in 
the fifth century B.C. attained complete naval supremacy .by 
founding colonies, building ships, constructing docks and 
harbours and organising a maritime league for national de- 
fence against the Barbarians. The Confederacy of Delos, 
which had come into being to clear the Aegean of the Persians, 
was ultimately transformed into a first class maritime empire 
under the hegemony of Athens. Although relying substan- 
tially upon their citizen-soldiers and legionaries, the Romans, 
too, felt the necessity of building for the safety of Italy a navy 
during their first clash with the Phoenicians in Sicily in the 
third century B.C. They, accordingly, built a fleet, defeated 
the Phoenicians and got possession of the Mediterranean 
islands adjacent to the Italian peninsula. The construction 
of a fleet was with the Romans, as Mommsen 80 says, ‘a 
noble national work’. Phoenicia, Hellas and Rome were 
abundantly endowed by Nature to be the seats of maritime 
power. So was ancient India.* But inspite of her penin- 
sular position and despite the fact that her shores are being 
washed by the waves of the everlasting sea, she has failed to 
become a maritime power throughout her long history. 
Certain natural disadvantages have stood in her way. Her 
coastline is no doubt extensive covering a distance of more 
than 3000 miles, but it is not indented or broken with small 
facilities for harbourage. The estuaries of her many rivers 
are generally unfit for navigation, the two chief obstacles 


80 Histoty of Rome, Vol, II, pp. 36-37. 



.32 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

* 

being shallowness and silt. Although such is the general 
physical character of India, there are reasons to believe that 
some portions of this vast sub-continent, because of its 
natural advantages, showed evident signs of naval activities 
in ahoient and early mediaeval times, These regions were 
Betjgal, the Valley of the Indus and the extreme south of 
the Deccan plateau,— called Dravidadesa, the ancient name 
for the Tamil country, — Tamilakam. The maritime 
activities of these regions have been testified to by Indian 
literature, inscriptions and foreign accounts. 81 

io. Weapons of Defence and Offence as gathered from 
the Remains of the Indus Valley Civilisation 

Before we close our account of the material pursuits of 
the Vedic Indians, it seems necessary to refer briefly to the 
magnificent (pre-Vedic?) Indus Valley civilisation. The 
people living in Sind and the Punjab and other adjoining 
areas evolved in the 3rd millennium B.C., a highly developed 
civilisation, but whether this civilisation called “Chalcolithic 
Culture” is pre-Vedic or post-Vedic is a difficult problem 
which still awaits solution. 88 ‘There is evidence to prove that 
the authors of this civilisation whose achievements in the arts 
of peace were so surprising, must have paid close attention 
to war and chase. It has been possible to divide, as has been 
done by Dr. K. N. Dikshit (Pre-Historic Civilisation, pp. 
31-32), the people of the Indus Valley into four classes, 

81 Khalimpur C.P. of Dhatmapala Ep. Ind. Vol. IV. 243®. Deo- 
para Ins. of Vijayascna Ep. Ind. Vol. I. p. 306;' CHI Vol. I. 
p. 594; South Ind. Ins. Vol. II p. 241 n t.; also yd, III. pt. 
1, pp. 4-6; The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea describes Indian 
ports, harbours and merchandise in the first century A.D. 

82 General Conclusions — AHI pp. 21-23. 



STRUGGLE FOR POWER AMONG THE VEDIC TRIBES 33 

• 

viz., the learned class, the warrior class, the traders 
and artisans and the manual labourers, but the survival of 
the 'Warrior Class’ has been denied by archaeologists. The 
following weapons of war are said to have been used by the 
people of the time : 

(1) Axes* 3 

(2) Spears 

( 3 ) Da gg crs 

(4) Bows 

(5) Arrows 

(6) Maces 

( 7 ) Slin g s - 

The use of the sword and arrows was probably unknown* 4 
Defensive weapons like shield and helmet are not met with. 
All offensive weapons were generally made of copper and 
bronze. Concerning the use of defensive and offensive 
weapons by the people in the Mycenaean stage of the pre- 
historic Aegean culture (c. 1 600-1 100 B. C.) unearthed by 
Schliemann and Sir Arthur Evans.— J. Bury 85 writes: 

“The arms with wlych the men of Mycenae attacked 
their foes were sword, spear and bow. Their defensive 
armour consisted of huge helmets, probably made of 
leather, and shields of oxhide. The princes went for war 
in two-horsed chariots which consisted of a board to 
stand on and breast work of wicker.” 

A careful examination of the defensive and offensive wea- 
pons used by the people of the Indus Valley as well as by 
Vedic Indians, — the method of warfare, the role of the Bow 

83 Plate XXII Chanu-daro. 

84 VJ8e — Mackay — Early Indus Civilisations 2nd Ed. revised 

by D. Mackay, Chap. V, p. 93. Plate XXIII — Bronze Sword — 

Mohenjo-daro. 

* 

85 History of Greece for Beginners, p. 13. 


MSAI — 3 



34 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


and the Arrow, the Rathin and Patti, the growth o £ well- 
guarded cities, t— the utilisation of massive fortifications and a 
due consideration of the fact that the Vedic age, especially 
the later one, was marked by the fierce struggle for supre- 
macy and speedy expansion of the Aryan territories in 
Madhyadesa, Prachi, Udichl, Pratlcln and Daksinapatha,® 8 
would tend to give the impression that ancient India’s 
military system which was to take shape in the Epic and 
Puranic literature, was coming more and more into the 
picture. 


86 A five-fold division of the country appears in Ait. Br. 
VIII. 14: A. V. XIX. 17. r. 9. ' 



CHAPTER TWO 


DEVELOPMENT OF THE MILITARY SYSTEM 
AS OUTLINED IN THE EPIC AND 
PURANIC LITERATURE 

(Circa 500B.C.— 400 A.D.) 

Every nation has its earliest history, — a history o£ its hard 
struggle with Nature and hostile tribes, wonderfully mixed 
up with legends, traditions, tales and myths. This legendary 
history, it may be presumed, takes in course of time a con- 
crete shape and appears as Heroic poetry. The beginnings 
of Indian Epic poetry may be traced to the later Vedic 
texts which contain legends (Itihasa) 1 , myths, and songs in 
praise of heroes (gatha narasamsl). Fragments of legends and 
songs were gathered together, given a definite shape, and 
ultimately became an Epic, glorifying the hero and through 
him the nation to which he belonged. The two national 
Epics of ancient India arc the Ramayana and the Maha- 
bharata. The original portions of these two great books, 
being of great antiquity, present the Heroic Age of an- 
cient India, and incidentally deal with the expansion, con- 
quest and civil wars of the Indo-Aryans in the post-Vcdic 
period. As the Epics often present a confusedly different 
political, social, religious and military background from that 
in the Vedas, the period may be for convenience called the 
Epic Age, otherwise the appellation becomes chronologically 
meaningless. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata took 
several hundred years to reach their present form, and 
consequently interpolations and additions have come in. 

1 ‘Parana’, Itivrtta (history), Akhyayika (tales) . Udaharana, 
(illustrated stories), Dhsrmaiastra and Arthasastra are (known by 
the name) itihasa. Kaut. S. Sastry’s tr., p. 10. 



36 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

• 

The date, 2 priority and interrelation 3 of the two Epics have 
engaged the .attention of many eminent scholars like Mac- 
donell, Keith, Hopkins, Wilson and Wintcrnitz, and each 
has recorded his own views, but no finality has yet been 
reached. They are, after all, heroic tales — essentially War 
Epics. The Ramayana describes, the conflict between Rama, 
King of Ayodhya and Ravana, King of Lanka, — a fascinat- 
ing stgry supposed to be connected with the account of 
the Aryan penetration in the South. The Ramayana des- 
cribes Rama’s expedition to the South. This may be re- 
garded as the extension of the Aryan sphere of influence 
over the lands of Vanaras and the Raksasas. The Maha- 
bharata story centres round the Bharata War, — a full-scale 
civil war between the Kauravas and the Pandavas for poli- 
tical dominance. The period which they represent is re- 
dolent of battle cries and war drums and all that they meant. 
The Mahabharata, often regarded as an Epic, a law-book 
and a Purana, is a storehouse of information and gives a 
mass of materials touching on military science and practice. 
A critical examination of these materials as preserved in the 
Epic and Puranjc literatures, when carefully done, would 
enable us to conclude that the military tradition of the times 
continued without breqk right up to the end of the Hindu 
period and that it must be looked upon as the solid founda- 


2 The Age of Epics varies between 5th Century B. C. and 
4th Century A. D. For opinions on the subject vide Macdoneli — 
History of Sanskrit Literature, pp. 285-287, 300. Hopkins — The 

Great Epic of India, pp. 336-402. CHI. I. p. 258. I.A. 1884, 
p. 229. 

3 For a discussion on the inter-relations of the two Epics, 
see Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhun s 'Studies" in Indian Antiquities' 
PP- * 5 - 34 - 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC LITERATURE 37 

tion, on which the later Hindu Military System was bfyed 
and remodelled according to circumstances. 

The eighteen Puranas 3 * '‘which embody the Ksatriya tra- 
dition of ancient India” may be considered a useful source 
of information for military matters. In some of the Puranas 
we have copious references to weapons, methods and usages 
of warfare. Tbe historical value of the Puranic traditions 
and Epic tales have been doubted. It will be unjust *to dis- 
miss them wholesale as ‘bardic tale’. European scholars have 
admitted the historical value of the Puranic traditions. 
Thus V. A. Smith 4 says,— ‘ A close study finds in them 
much genuine and valuable historical tradition.’ This is 
particularly true of the Dynastic lists contained in them. 

As to the Kuruksetra war or the war between the Kurus 
and the Pandavas, European writers® do not doubt its authen- 
ticity and antiquity. Concerning the historicity of the Kuru 
ksetra war Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri 6 writes: 

“As to the Bharata war, we have no epigraphic cor- 
roborations. ...Vedic literature contains many hints that 
the story of the great conflict is not wholly fictitious. 
Many of the principal figures in the Kuruksetra story, 
e. g. Dhritrarastra Vaichitravlrya and Krsna Dcvaki- 
putra are mentioned in some of the Vedic texts, and 
battle songs, describing the internecine strife among the 
Bharatas and the tragic end of Dhritrarastra’s progeny 
must have been current as early as the fifth cen- 
tury B. C.” 


3a While discussing the Age of the Puranas Dr. Smith 
writes, “I # may add that Puranas in some shape were already 
authoritative in the foutjh century B. C. “(EHI 4th Ed. Appendix). 
4 E. H. I., 4th Ed., p. 12. 5 CHI. Vol. I, p. 307. 

6 PHAI, 3rd Ed., p. 6 and 5th Ed., p. 7. 



•38 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

Carefully examining the dynastic lists contained in the 
Puranas, Parg'ter (Ancient Indian Historical Traditions 
p. 182) fixes the date of the Bharata war at 950 B.»C. 

1 Role of the Ksatriyas or the Rajanyas 

*In passing from the Vcdic period to the time represent- 
ed by {he Epic and Puranic literature, — from the Vedic nobi- 
lity (lesser tribal princes forming the warrior class) to the Epic- 
military caste, we notice a change in the social structure of 
the country and a predominance of the Ksatriyas or the 
fighting class the members of which must attend to the de- 
fence of the country (prajanam raksanam). “The evidence 
of the Jatakas (Buddhist India by Rhys Davids, 52 et seq) 
points to the word ‘Khattiya’ denoting the members of the 
Aryan nobility who had led the tribes to conquest, as well 
as those families of the aborigines who had managed to 
maintain their princely status. In the Epic — JAOS 13-73 
et. seq) the term ‘Ksatriya’ seems to include all those per- 
sons, but probably it has a wider signification of the Khatri- 
yas, and would cover all the royal military vassals and feu- 
dal chiefs expressing in fact, pretty much the same as the 
barones of early English History.” 7 8 9 Onerous and sacred 
were the duties of the Ksatriyas. They were to defend the 
realm, to protect the people and the Dharma, ‘not to for- 
get a kindness or a hurt,’ not to back out when challenged 
to fight or gamble, and in the words of the Great Epic, they 
considered it a sin to die in bed.* Martial spirit was in- 
born in them.* 

7 V. I. Vol. I, pp. 202-203. 

8 For functions of the Ksatriyas sae also Manu X. 89. 

9 ‘Sweet it is to die in battle; the path to heaven lies in 
fighting’. (Mabht. VIII. 93, 55). 



. military system in the epic and puranic. literature 39 

.2. Division , Recruitment, Training, Salary , Allowance 

and Merits of the Army 

We notice a welcome change in the composition of the 
army, too. While the Vedic host cosisted of twa divi- 
sions — Patti (foot soldier) and Rathin (Car warrior), tfic Epic* 
army attained a fourfold 10 (Caturangabala) or even an eight- 
fold 11 division with the coming into use of horses and war 
elephants, etc. The four-fold division of the army is men- 
tioned in both the Epics. 13 “Chariots, elephants, horses, 
infantry, burden-carriers, ships, spies with local guides as the 
eight — these are the open “limbs” of a fighting force, O 
descendant of Kuru.” (Mabht. LIX. 41-42). 

Let us now consider certain fundamental military prac- 
tices. The question is- — how was the army (footsoldiers) 
recruited? It is difficult to state if there were clear-cut rules 
of recruitment. Foot soldiers were probably drawn from all 
sorts of people including foreigners. In the Infantry it is 
the quantity rather than the quality that counted. The 
importance of the Infantry has been stressed again and again 
in both the Epics. 13 and the Puranas, 14 but of the four-fold 
division of the army it is dhe Chariot or rather the hero 
fighting from the chariot i.e. Ratfii who was seen to play a 
most conspicuous and decisive part in the conduct of battles 


10 The game of Chess which was played in India from the 
earliest times to the days of Alberuni probably had, according to 
Dr. Smith, its origin in the Caturangabala. 

11 Sana Parva 103, 38. ‘To the infantry, cavalry chariots and 
elephants# were added Treasure (Kosa) and machine (Yantra)). 

12 Mabht. Banaparva 308. 11; Ram. Lanka Kanda 17. 24. 

13 Sana Parva, foo. 24. 

14 Agni Purina, 288. 7. 



40 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

* 

in the age of the Mahabharata. He was a host in himself. 
In support of this, the words of Hopkins 15 may be quoted : 

“The Knight in his chariot is equal to an aripy. Fre- 
quently we find thousands running from one mounted 
*hcfo. In case of a national hero, of course, no bounds 
are set in description. Through fear of Ar;una, every- 
body, even the Knights ran away; tke horse-riders aban- 
doned their horse, the elephant-riders their elephants — 
falling from war-cars, elephants and horses.” 

This shows how the car-warriors described in the Udyoga- 
parva of the Mahabharata as MaharathI, Rath! and Atirathi, 
enjoyed unchallenged supremacy in the military organisa- 
tion of the Post-Vcdic India.’ In Epic literature we meet 
with Brahmana warriors. A Jataka story (Sarbhanga Jataka 
for example ) 16 refers to the training of a Brahmana lad in 
archery. Thus, it will not be correct to say that one par- 
ticular class alone enjoyed the privilege of being enrolled as 
fighters whether as car warriors or as footmen. 

There are dissertations here and there in the Epics on 
the training merits and capabilities of soldiers. That there 
was an elaborate arrangement , for the training of soldiers is 
evident from the Ramayana . 17 The Sages collected in the 
royal assembly after the death of King Dasaratha in the 
course of their addresses to Vasistha pointed out the evil 
that would befall a kingless state which would no longer 
hear the sound of the feet of heroes. “When the army is 
well trained,” says the Santi Parva , 18 “it does fighting quite 
well; untrained soldiers are worthless, therefore, considerate 


15 JAOS - Vol. 13, 261-62. 

16 Cowell: The Jataka — No. 522. 

17 Ajodhya Ksnda 67. 


18 Chap. XIX. 



.MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC, AND PURANIC LITERATURE 41 

people properly train them.” Ravana’s speech to his Com- 
mander in-chief was more significant. . "Hero! order* my 
four-limbed army which is well trained in military arts to 
defend the city carefully against the enemy.” 1 ® In the 
Mahabharata there are references to military tournament/ in 
which the military skill of the Kaurava and Pandava brothers 
was tested by their teacher, Drona. 30 Dhrtarastra’s speech 
on the quality of his armies shows their many-sided 
training. 31 Thus— -‘they are experts in climbing, riding, 
quick march, beating, entering and coming (out of a fort) 
and their skill in fighting on elephants, in horsemanship and 
charioteering has been tested.’ Moreover, the Adiparva men- 
tions a sort of a forest University not far from human habi- 
tation or a town where young learners were to receive edu- 
cation and general training including military exercises. 

Soldiers probably received fixed and regular salaries. The 
discontent among them for non-payment of salaries was 
guarded against. 23 Sukraniti writes — "The strength of the 
army is to be increased by good payments, that of arms and 
weapons by penances and regular exercises, and that of in- 
telligence by the compahionship of people learned in 
Sastras.” 23 There is a reference in the Sabba parva (5. 57) 
and the Santiparva (86. 24) to the practice of granting an 
extra allowance in advance (marching allowance?) to the army 
personnel on the eve of an expedition and also the provision 
for the family of soldiers dying on the battle field.* Rcgu- 


19 Ram. Yuddhakainda. 12. 20 Adiparva 34 — 37. 

21 Drdhaparva 5,, 22 Sabhaparva 5. 48 — 49. 

23 B. K. Sarkar’s tr. p. 218. 

24 C/o Vasisdia’s Dharmasastra XIX. 20. It is interesting to 
note that as late as the time of Sivaji this system was in vogue. 



42 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

lar payment of soldiers is, according to the Puranic literature, 
a matter of supreme importance. 25 These matters have been 
dealt with in great detail in the works of Kautilyjt, Sukra 
and Kamandaka 25 


3. The Land beyond Madhyadesa : Eastern Monarchies 

• 

As already stated, by the time of the later Samhitas and 
Brahmanas the Aryan infiltration in Madhyadesa was all but 
complete. The river Sadanlra (Gondak) was reached — 
Kosala and Videha were occupied and Aryanised. 27 But the 
easternmost parts of India, which roughly formed the British 
province of Bengal, remained yet to be fully subdued. This 
is attested by Vedic evidence. The tribes like the Pundras, 
Suhmas, Vangas were still outside the pale of the Vedic 
civilisation. These peoples were condemned as Dasyus or 
outlandish barbarians. 28 The Manusaihhita 29 also describes 
the Pundras as degraded Ksatriyas. The Vedic account of 
the eastward drive of the Aryans and its references to non- 
Aryan tribes beyond Aryandom supply a clue to many 
things. The land beyond the 'Firm Middle Country’ 
(dhruba madhyama dis) was still then the stronghold of non- 


The great Maratha leader had the abiding faith in ancient Hindu 
institutions. 

25 Agni Purana 239, 31. 

26 Arthasastra tr. p. 289; Nitisara Chap. XX, p. 127. Sukraniti 
B. K. Sarkar’s tr. p. 218-f. 

27 Sat. Br. I. 4. 1. 

28 Ait. Br. II. I. I.; Manu. Chap. 23. 

29 Manu Chap. X. 44. 



• -MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC. LITERATURE 43 

Aryan tribes or the tribes of mixed origin like the Ahgas of 
East Bihar, the Magadhas of South Bihar and the Pundras 
of North Bengal. In this region which is described as the 
‘land of the impure* arose an unorthodox faith, — Buddhism. 
This part of the country again turned out to be the cradle of 
Hindu imperialistic system. A monarchy arose in South Bihar 
(Magadha). It destroyed the tribal democracies like those of 
the bik^yas and the Li^hchhavis and absorbed the bigger king- 
doms like Kosala, Avanti and Vatsa. The curtailment of 
the privileges of the higher orders, and the prominence of the 
Ksatriyas which the advent of Buddhism involved, and the 
consequent weakening of the position of the Brahmanas, who 
served as natural leaders of the people against royal des- 
potism, paved the way for autocratic rule. Being full of 
favage tribes, the eastern regions were specially favourable 
for concentration of power in single hands under ambitious 
princes who had the opportunity of recruiting good soldiers 
from among the savages and of maintaining a standing army. 
The tendency of eastern rulers to swallow up neighbouring 
states and build up an empire by force and diplomacy is evi- 
dent from the tradition* concerning Jarasandha, King of 
Magadha, as recorded in the Mahabharata . 30 As a prelude 
to the Aryan conquest of the eastarn region, the old story of 
the conflict between the Aryans and the non-Aryans seemed 
to be in action. We hear of the heroism and military capa 
city of the chiefs of Bengal with glimpses of their aggressive 
attitude towards the people and princes of Upper India and 
also of their humiliations at the hands of rulers of that region. 
Bengal, divided into a number of small states, looms large in 
Epic literature. The Great Epic, for example, depicts the 
victorious campaigns undertaken by Karna. Krsna and Bhlm- 
sena in the region qf the lower Ganges. The humiliation of 


30 Sabha Parva. Chap. XXXI. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


44 

the Pundras, who had allied themselves with King Jj»ra- 
sandha of Magadha, certainly breathes an atmosphere of 
courage and militarism. 

Navy 

By no stretch of imagination can the existence of a navy 
or occurrence of sea fights be proved so far as the original 
epic literature is concerned. References to sea-voyages do 
occur in^both the Epics. Sugriva sent monkeys to Yavana 
(Javadvip— Java?), Suvarna (Sumatra?) and Rajata islands in 
search of Slta. 31 The Nisadraja Guhaka asked thousands of 
Kaivarta youths to keep themselves ready in five hundred 
boats to offer resistance to Bharata. 32 The Great Epic refers 
to Sahadcva’s journey by sea, his war with the Mlechhas and 
occupation of some islands. 33 The same work has stated 
that navy formed one of the angas (limbs) of the royal 
forces. 34 Prof. Dikshitar 35 finds many examples of ships be- 
ing used for military purposes. But these are stray references 
and may be regarded as later interpolations. In the absence 
of more convincing proofs about naval fights, it is difficult 
to believe the existence of the Epie Man-of-War cruising in 
Indian waters. India was not then politically united nor did 
her political boundary extend from sea to sea. 

5. battle-army 

The Kuruksetra war was long drawn-out and destructive. 
The people of the time, then in an advanced stage of civilisa- 

31 Ram. Kiskindha Kanda 45. 30. 

32 Ibid, Ayodhya Kanda 84. 78, 

33 Mabht: Sabha Parva Chap .XXXI. 

34 Ibid. Santiparva 59. 41. 

35 War in Ancient India, p. 287. 



• MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC LITERATURE j|§ 

tlou, must have acquired a thorough knowledge of military 
tactics and taken recourse to strategical plans in so terrible a 
conflict which, like the Peloponnesian war in ancient Greece, 
had drawn the whole of India within its orbit. The Mjjha- 
bharata has given bewildering details about the battlo-a*rrays 
(Vyuhas) made use of by the Epic heroes. The Pandjvas 
changed their battle-arrays from day to day. We hear of 
such orders such as Sue! (needle-shaped), Kraunca (in the 
shape of a heron), Syena (hawk array), makara (crocodile- 
shaped), mandala (circular), Vajra (thunderbolt), etc., etc. 3 ® 
These battle arrays represent all possible kinds of move- 
ments of armies in warfare. A fuller treatment and a more 
rational division of battle-arrays is found in Kautilya. 3 - Prof. 
Dikshitar’s 38 analysis in this connection deserves mention : — 
‘A close examination of the arrays used in the Mahabharata 
battles affords proof of the existence of four kinds of move- 
ment common to them, — circular, crooked, separate and 
compact, roughly corresponding to the deep and dense 
column of Mediaeval England .’ 39 


36 Formation of Vyuhas described in Udyoga, Virata and 
Bhisma Parvas. 

37 Arthasastra. tr., Bk. X, Chap. VI. 

38 Mabht. V. 83. 7., X, 100. Agni Pur. 242. 1 — 18. 182. 
Manu Chap. VII. 

39 C/o Kautilya tr. p. 423. ‘In case of any obstruction die 
army should march in crocodile array in the front, the cart-like 
array behind, and on the sides in diamond-like array (i.e. in four 
or five rows, each having its front, rear and sides) and in a com- 
pact array on all sides’. For similar accounts also compare Agni 
Purina 242-48, and Manu Chap. VII. SI. 187-88. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


$ 


6. Army on the march 

As to the nature and time of march of the army, the Epic 
and Puranic literature recommends two kinds, viz. slow and 
rapuj. When the offensive equipment is inadequate or 
when hcgotiations for peace are in progress, the march should 
be slow; on all other occasions it should be rapid. Winter 
(December) for long marches and summer (March-April) for 
short marches are generally favoured. 40 War music to the 
accompaniment of the drum was a regular feature of the 
Hindu army on the march. A picture of the army on the 
march is obtained from the Udyogaparva (Chapter 151) of 
the Mahabharata. The following is the description of the 
Pandava army on the march: 

“Composed of the four traditional arms (limbs), it moves 
on as an irregular body amidst the blaze of conch-shells, 
the beating of drums and frequent war cries. In the van 
of the army march Bhimsena and several other knights 
all in suits of armour. In the second line are the 
Prabhadrakas and the Panchalas. The king is in the 
centre, surrounded by carts and wagons filled with stores 
and provisions, tents, trea.sure-chests, arms and mach- 
ines. Behind the king proceeds the main army, headed by 
the Knights. The movement of the army causes such a 
tremendous din that it seemed like “the roars of the deep 
when the tide is highest on the day of the new moon.” 

7. Ambulance 

Ambulance corps with physicians and surgeons and 
nurses also accompanied the Pandava army. 41 Thus in point 

40 Mabht. V. 83. 7. X 100. Agni, Pur. p. 242. 1 — 18. 182. 
Manu, Chap. VII. 

41 Udyogaparva, Chap. 151. C/o Niriprakasika, VI. 43. 50. 



MILITARY system in the epic and puranic literature 47 

of order, arrangement, equipment and other details, the Epic 
army on the march looks very much like the .army of *any 
age, ancient and modern, minus the firearms, armoured 
cars, machineguns and aeroplanes. 


8. Encampment and Fortification 

The internal evidence of our national epics shows that 
the people were not ignorant of the rules of encampment and 
of the various necessities of maintaining and provisioning 
forts and armours with some degree of perfection. These 
have received great attention in the later works on the Nlti- 
sastra. 42 The compiler of the Agni Purana points out the 
necessity of a good and well furnished armoury. An empty 
arsenal is, according to him, an indication of the weak sys- 
tem of defence. With regard to the pitching of a royal camp 
the first preference was given to the selection of a suitable 
site. The Santiparva 43 considers the region near a forest to 
be the best site for camping. Camping by the side of a 
river is frequently met with. The description of the Kuru 
Camp, however, gives a J clear picture of its position and 
appurtenances. It runs as follows: 

“Spreading over an area of five yojanas, it also con- 
tained countless tents and pavilions stored with provi- 
sions and arms. As in the opposing camp, so also here 
troops were relayed for outpost and patrol duty. But 
besides fighting men both camps ( Kuru and Pandava) 
included a large and motley host of non-combatants such 


42 Suk.aniti. B. K. Sarkar’s tr. Chap. IV. Sec. VI, pp. 214 — 15. 
Kamandakiya Nitisara: Beng. tr. by G. Sarkar, Chap. XVII, 
n. 1 15 ff. 

43 100. 16 — 17. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


. 4 « 


as bards , panegyrists, priests, vendors, traders, prosti- 
tutes and women of rank .” 44 

The Sanciparva 45 classifies forts as under: 

‘Dhavadurgam, mahidurgam, 4 * giridutgam 

tathaivaca, 

Manusyadurgam, mrdurgam, Vanadurgam 

ca tani sat.’ 

Tins evidently shows their extensive use in military ope- 
rations in those days. Forts and camps and armouries have 
not escaped the attention of the writers of the Epic, Puranic 
and Arthasastra literature. In Mediaeval Europe feudal 
castles served as veritable forts, regard being had to their 
position and place suited to the necessities of the times. 
(Joan Evans-Mediaeval France, p. 43) 

9. Natural and Artificial Fortification of Capital cities 

The writer of the Mahabharata has given a graphic des- 
cription of the defences of Magadhapur, the capital of Jara- 
sandha. It runs thus ; ‘Behold, O Partha, the great capital 
of Magodha standing in all it£ beauty.’ Filled with flocks 

t 

44 Udyogaparva, 152, iff, Ramayana, Lahka-Kanda 3, 2022. 
Agni, p. '222. 4—5. 

45 5 ; c /° also Manu Chap. VII. 70 — 75. It speaks of the 
following varieties of forts : i) Fort with deserts on all sides, 
ii) Fort with brick-ramparts around, iii) Fort with water all around, 
iv) Fort surrounded by thorny plants, v) fort made of elephants, 
horses, infantry, etc., vi) Fort on a hill. The last one is considered 
the best. (SI. 71). 

46 As late as the time of the Moghuls in Indiai ‘forts on tops 
of hills were extremely numerous in the [Lakshin* (Irvine-Army of 
the Indian Moghuls, p. 263). 



. MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC LITERATURE 4ft 

and^ herds and its stock of water never exhausted; and 
adorned with fine mansions standing in excellent array; it 
is free from every kind of calamity. The five large hills of 
Vaihara, Varah, Vrishava, Rsigiri and the delightful Chai- 
tyaka, all of high peaks overgrown with tall trees o| • cool 
shade connected with one another, seem to jointly protect 
the city of Girivraja .’ 47 

In another section of the Great Epic we get a • capital 
description about the defence of Dvaraka by Ahuka or Ugra- 
sena. “Salva (the Lord of Saubha, King of Martikavat)... 
came to the city of Dvaravatl. And, O Son of Pandu, the 
wicked king stationing his forces in array invested that city, 
around and above. 4 -* 1 ,.. And stationing himself in the upper 
regions, the king began his fight with city... The city 
at that time was well furnished on all sides, according 
to the science (of fortification) with penons and arches, and 
combatants, and walls and turrets, and engines and miners, 
and streets barricaded with spiked wood-work, and towers 
and edifices on gateways well-filled with provisions.... 
And all the bridges over rivers were destroyed and boats 
foabidden to ply, and the trenches (around the city) were 
spiked with poles at the bottom! And the land around the city 
for two miles was rendered uneven, .and holes and pits were 
dug thereon, combustibles were secreted below the surface .” 48 

47 Sabha Parva. Chap. 21, p. 63-64. For different names of 
this ancient metropolis Rajgir or Rajagrha, see IHQ., June, 1950. 
pp. 152—53. 

47a It is stated in connection with Salva’s invasion of Dvaraka 
that he came there in Saubhapura (flying fortress?) which carried the 
whole arm)* (Bana Parva, Chaps. 16 — 20). “The wicked Salva . . . 
afflicted by the Vrishnis mounted on his car of precious metal and 
leaving Dvaraka skudded through the skies.” 

48 Bana Parva, Chap. 15. 


msai — 4 



5 ° 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


The Ramayana 4 ® appends the following account of Ajodhya.: 
“Her walls extend 

Twelve measured leagues from end to end, • 

# # # * 

High are her ramparts, strong and vast, 

By ways at even distance passed, 

With circling moat, both deep and wide, 

And store of weapons fortified.” 

The Balakanda (Chap. V) also describes Ajodhya as a 
city of towers and gates bearing pennons, carrying weapons 
of offence and defence and garrisoned by soldiers of all arms 
Kapatornavati and Uccattaladvajavatl). According to Hop- 
kins , 50 the epic descriptions of city defences are later in- 
terpolations and do not belong to the original epics (The 
Mahabharata and the Ramayana). But in the light of archaeo- 
logical evidence the existence of walled towns, ramparts and 
battlements can be proved long before the Age of Alexander. 
From theoretical discussions on citadel defence in the Great 
Epic it is clear that sufficient carj was taken from very early 
times to make capital cities best defended places. Thus, the 
Santiparva 61 has it, — ‘The king with his ministers and the 
army thoroughly loyal to him should reside in that city 
which is defended by a citadel, which contains an abundant 
stock of rice and weapons, which is protected with imperish- 
able walls and a trench, which teems with elephants and 
steads and cars, which is inhabited by men possessed of 
learning and versed in mechanical arts where provisions of 
every kind have been stored.’ 

49 Griffith’s tr. Bk. I. Canto V. 

50 JAOS Vol. XIII, p. 175. 

51 Chap. 75, p. 277 ff. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC LITERATURE 51 
|o. Espionage 

The system of collecting information by employing spies 
and diplomatic agents, (Duta) envoys and ambassadors in 
times of peace and war, — civil and military espionagp'in 
modern phraseology, was known and widely practised. 
Civil espionage is as old as the Vedas . 52 We hear of spies 
(spasa) employed by Vedic king to keep watch over the peo- 
ple. The earliest traces of military espionage arc to be found 
in the Epics and the Puranas. The Ramayana 55 mentions 
three kinds of envoys. Rama sent Angad as an envoy to 
Ravana with the message. ‘Give up Slta or fight.’ Rama 
enquires of Bharata if he was fully informed of the eighteen 
tlrthas (state functionaries) of foreign countries through 
spies . 84 Qualifications of an ambassador have been catalogued 
by Bhisma in the Mahabharata . 58 The employment, qualifica- 
tions, marching and stationing of spies have been elaborately 
discussed in the same work. 86 Durjodhana’s spies are found 
busy submitting reports on neighbouring countries to their 
king. 5 - Spies were sent in search of the Pandavas while they 
were living in the country of Virata. Duhsasana went to the 
length of making advance payments to these secret and 
trusted agents. When the war was on, the services of spies 
and diplomatic agents as informers of the enemy’s plans, 
movements and resources were considered essential. Such ins- 
tances are found in abundance in the. Epic literature. 

52 R. V. I. 24. 13. Ibid IV. 4. 3. A. V. VI. 4. 3. 

53 Yuddha Kasnda 1. 8 — 10. 

54 Ajodhya Kanda, 100. 36. 

55 Santifarva 85. 26-28. Agni Purana (241. 1 — 14) mentions 
three kinds erf envoys. C/o Manu VII, 63. 

56 Santiparva, Chap. 69. 

57 Virata ’ Parva. 25. 5 — 6. 9— -13. 26. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


5 2 

,ii. War Music 

War music rousing the spirit of combatants, invoking 
God’s gifts and wishing victories and striking terror played an 
important part. On the eve of the Kuruksetra war the 
following musical instruments of both parties were played 
as is evident from the Bhagvadglta : 58 

“Arousing in him the joy, the Kuru elder, the grand- 
sire majestic, blew his conch, ringing a high blast of 
lion roar. Thereupon Madhu’s lord and Pandu’s son, 
standing in a great car yoked with white steads, blew 
each his glorious conch. The high-haired one blew 
‘Pahcajanya,’ the Wealth-winner blew ‘God’s gift,’ the 
doer of grim deeds, wolf- bowel blew the great conch 
Paundra.” 

The Great Epic mentions Mrdahga, Bherl, Panava and 
Anaka as some of the musical instruments used in times of 
war . 89 


12. Banners 

* 

The use of flags and banners in all wars of ancient India 
is an old custom. The term “dhvaja” occurs in the 
Rgveda . 80 “Indra (is) ours when the banners meet (in con- 
flict; let the arrows that are ours conquer, let our heroes be 
superior; us, O, Gods, aid ye at the invocations .” 81 As we 

58 Hindu Scriptures (Everyman) edited by Nicol, Macnical, 
p. 226. 

59 Kama Parva. Chap. 89. Different classes of musical instru- 
ments are also found in Mabht. VII. 39. 31; VI. 5i. v 23. 99. 17. 
19. 43. 78. JAOS Voi, XIII. p. 318 ff. 

60 VII. 85. 2. X. 103. 11. Vejlic Index I, p. 405. 

61 A. V. XIX. 13. ii. (Whitney’s tr,). 



Military system in the epic, and puranic literature 53. 

• 

entep the period represented by the Epics our information 
becomes more definite and the Mahabharata 88 devotes a 
chapter t« the enumeration and description of the flags used 
by the contending parties in the Bharata war. The Great 
Epic calls the Army ‘Dhvajim’ (VII. L. 3332). and in* the 
Ramayana (II. 67.26) banners or flags were attached tq a 
pole on the chariot. 

13. Offensive and Defensive Weapons 

The number of offensive and defensive weapons used by 
the Epic heroes and their lieutenants is simply overwhelm- 
ing. From the Markandeya Purana 83 we learn that the march 
of Sumbha began with 86 different weapons and 84 different 
clubs. The same work 64 mentions arms, clubs, saktis, 
swords, daggers and clubs of many thorns. Dr. Chakra- 
varty 65 has given a critical account of ancient India’s arms 
and armours, tracing their origin, whenever possible, to the 
Vedic rimes. Some of them were: 

I. Offensive : 

(a) Dhanu = Bow. 

(b) Isu = Arrow. 

(c) Praharana = Weapon. 

(d) Sakti — made of iron also called Kunta== Spear. 

(e) Tomara — Pasa ? = Javelin 

(£) Gad2=Mace. 


62 Dronaparva, Chap. 105. 

63 Chap. 85.. 87. 64 Chap. 133. 43 — 46. 

65 AWAI Chap. £IV. p. 130 — 180, also see: War in Ancient 

Indiai by Dikshitar — Weapons of war as gathered from Literature, 
Chap. Ill, pp. 93—152. JAOS Vol. XIII, pp. 269-308. 



■54 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


(g) Yantras= a general term denoting an engine of 

offence and defence. 

(h) Kuthara ss Battle-axe— wielded by the nobility. 

(i) Cakra = Discus; Yantra — ‘a revolving weapon, 

made of iron or steel’. 

(j) Sataghni=(“a hundred-killer’'; “a rocket usually 

placed at the walls and gates of forts or 
fortified towns”). 

ANCIENT INDIAN ARMS 1 . 



' rerm Hlshtrj o/ India by V.A. Smith ,C1£. 


(1) OACCCR* (2) SWORD, HUN6 FROM SHOOU*»t«. (d) INMItTRy SHIELD; 
(4)*(») CAVALRY SHIELDS ; (6) DIKE OR JAVIUI1; (7) VAORA^CA ARIES 
IN HIRC'S »AH0j(8),(S) AXES* (to) TRUJEHT j(1l) (URHANT AO AO. 



' MILITARY SYSTEM IN THE EPIC AND PURANIC LITERATURE 55 

II. Defensive : 

(а) Avarana, Carma = Shields. 

(б) Varman Kabaca =* Body armour. 

(c) Sirastrana = Helmet of metal. 

(d) Kanthatrana = Neckprotector. 

(e) Hastapava = Shooting glove. 

14. Military Formations 

Some difficulty presents itself when one tries to state 
precisely, on the strength of the epic materials, the units of 
the army and the rule of military formations as they existed 
in the age of the Epics. Statements relating to this import- 
ant branch of military organisation are often conflicting and 
make generalisations an uphill task. Generally speaking, 
no uniform method of military formations can be inferred 
from the Epic literature. The Santiparva 68 reveals the for- 
mation of troops into units of io, 20, 30 and so on. The 
Adiparva 67 gives the following units of the army with their 
constituents : 


Unit . 87a 

Chariot. 

Elvphant. 

Horse. 

Foot. 

Patti 

1 

1 . 

3 

5 

Senamukha 

3 

3 

9 

*5 

Gulma 

9 

9 

2 7 

45 

Gana 

27 

27 

81 

1 35 

Vahini 

8t 

81 

2 43 

4°5 

Prtana 

2 43 

243 

729 

1215 

Camu 

7 29 

729 

21 87 

3 6 45 

Anlkini 

2187 

2187 

6561 

10935 

Aksauhini 21870 

O 

00 

65610 

109350 

66 100. 31. 

67a Oppert Gustav in 

67 

his book “On 

2. 19 f. 
the weapons 

and - Army 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


5 6 


It appears from the above scheme that a combination of 
these nine divisions constituted a full-scale army under an 
Aksauhini, — the total number included in it being ten times 
tha| included in the preceding one i.e. an Anlkinl. A uni- 
form* triple increase in regard to horse and foot was laid down 
in the case of the constituents of each unit. But we meet 
with a different enumeration of army units in the Udyoga- 
parva 8 ® -which states that “a sena consists of five hundred 
war-cars, and the same number of war elephants, while ten 
of these constitute a prtana and ten of these a. Vahini.” 
Thus a prtana would bring the total to 10,000 and a Vahini 
to 100,000. Here we notice an apparent contradiction about 
the military formation in the Adi, Udyoga and Santiparva 
schemes. Relying on verse 25 of the Udyogaparva, Chap- 
ter 154, in which it is stated that ‘in common parlance the 
words ‘Sena,’ ‘Vahini,’ ‘Prtana,’ ‘Dhvajini,’ ‘Camu,’ ‘Aksau- 
hinI and ‘Varathini’ are used in the same sense, Dr. Chakra- 
barty 89 admirably sums up the position thus, — ‘The Adi- 
parva scheme of military formations is neither fully under- 
stood nor based on epic military practice.’ The Great Epic 
would have us believe that the highest office in the army was 
that of the Senapati and each unit had its separate com- 
mandant such .as Patti-pati, Senamukhaneta, Gulmanayaka, 
Vahinipati, Prtatapati, Camupati, Anikinipati, Aksauhini- 
pati. 70 


organisation etc. of Hindus” has appended a slightly different 
account especially with regard to number of the army formation. 
It is based on Nitiprakasika (VII. 6 — 11, 29 — 30) of Vaisampayana. 

68 Chap. 154. 24. 

69 AWAI, p. 84. 

70 We learn from the Udyogaparva. section XVIII that eighteen 
aksauhin'is took the field during the Kuruksetra war, — n on be- 



Military system in the epic and pijranic literature 57 


15. Epic Military Code 

The Vedic literature contains no reference to any accepted 
cpde of fighting. But the Epic and Puranic literature holds 
before us an excellent military code, making a near approach 
to the laws of war as laid down in modern International Law. 
It puts emphasis on the abstention from striking down *an 
unarmed, unequalled and fallen foe, on showing quarter, 
giving punishment for indiscipline and betrayal, and reward 
for meritorious service, on humane treatment of prisoners of 
war , 71 on non-seizure of enemy property on certain condi- 
tion and distinction between combatants and non-combatants, 
etc. Some of these rules deserve mention. 

(a) A warrior in armour should not fight a Ksatriya 
without a coat of mail. 72 

(b) ‘ A cavalryman should not attack a car-warrior. The 

principle behind it is that fight should be between 
equals. 73 

half of the Kauravas and 7 on behalf of the Pandavas. The follow- 
ing is a tabic of the armies assembled by the combatants: — 
Chariots Elephants Horse Foot 
Pandavas. 153,090 1 53 ^° 9 ° 459*270 765450 

Kauravas. 240,570 240,570 721,710 1,202,850 

71 It ma|y be mentioned in this connection that according to 
Greek ideas the treatment meted out to prisoners of war was brutal, 
viz., they wholly passed into the hands, of the conqueror and could 
be kept enslaved or even put to death. These rules were, however, 
subsequently humanised. See Grcenidge — Handbook of Greek 
Constitutional History, pp. 47 — 48. For Cruelty of the Laws of 
War in Greece C/o .Thucydides (Eng. tr. by R. Crawley) pp. 25, 
146, 147, 155, 165, 216, 257, 273, 306, 410. 

72 Santiparvai 95, 7. 73 Ibid , 95, 10. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INPIA 


, (c) Poisoned arrows and barbed arrows should not be 
used. 74 No helpless, benumbed or defeated person 
should be pierced with an arrow. 

.(d) Non-combatants who hide themselves in fear or who 
are mere spectators should not be killed. 75 

(e) A suppliant enemy after he has laid down his arms 
should not be killed. Prisoners of war should be 
treated well. Courteous treatment should be accord- 
ed to maidens made prisoners of war till they were 
sent back home after a year. 76 

(f) One who has one’s hair unlocked, one who has turned 
one’s face against one’s opponent, who is in folded 
palm, without arrow, without armour and one whose 
weapon is broken and a Brahmana should not be 
killed. 77 The list of persons to be spared in-battles 
is also found in Manu oamhita. Chap. VII. SI. 91-93. 

(g) The sick and the wounded should be looked after. 78 

(h) In case of an insufficient supply of numbers in a parti- 
cular division or divisions of the army substitute may 
be used. 70 The Puranic literature forbids clearly 
seizure or destruction of enemy’s property except un- 
der grave necessity. Temples and temple treasures, 
properties of non-combatants and private individuals 
enjoyed immunity from seizure and destruction in 
war. 80 

74 Ibid > 95 - "-** 3 - 

75 Ram. Yuddhakanda. 80. 39. Manu Chap. VII. SI. 92, 

76 Santiparm 96. 5. 

77 Karna Parva, 90. 105 — 109. 

78 Santiparva 95. 17 — 18 102. 34 — 39. 

79 Agni Purana 242. 38. 80 Agni Purana. 226. 22 — 25. 



Military system in the epic and puranic literature 59 

*(i) The Sastras do not allow the liberty in warfaje of 
striking below the belt. “Adho nabham na hanta- 
ham iti sastrasya nis^ah .” 81 Manu Samhita, too, for- 
bids, the use of certain weapons in warfare . 83 

The Epic and Puranic account of the military organisa- 
tion and art of warfare of the Hindus makes a distinct im- 
provement on that given in the Vedic literature. We hear a 
good deal of theoretical discussion about political expedients 
and diplomacy, — a statecraft much like that of Kautilya in 
the shape of Kanika’s advice to Drtarastra . 83 But it should 
be borne in mind that it is by additions and interpolations 
that the Mahabharata has become what it is now. It 
is a great work dealing with almost everything about India 
and its glorious past, being ‘the creation and expression not 
of a single individual mind, but of the mind of a nation, — it 
is the poem of itself written by a whole people.’ As the ori- 
ginal portions were composed long ago and are posterior to 
the Vedic literature and anterior to the Age of Alexander, 
some of the interesting military matters which the Great 
Epic reveals are genuine traditions nearly as old as the fifth 
century B.C. These were carried forward and perfected in 
the age of Magadhan .imperialism, when, following the 
country’s political unification, a policy of national defence 
had to be evolved and acted upon to protect the land from 
foreign invasion. 


81 Mabht. Salya Parva. 6. 6. 

82 Manu. Chap. VII. SI. 90. 

83 Adiparva, Chap. 140. 



CHAPTER THREE 


NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 
THE AGE OF MAGADHAN IMPERIALISM 

THIj MAURYA MILITARY SYSTEM AS DESCRIBED BY 
• KAUTILYA, MEGASTHENES AND OTHER 
CLASSICAL WRITERS 

(c, 600—185 B.C.) 

1 . Rise of an Imperialist State 

With the establishment of the Saisunaga dynasty in the 
middle of the sixth century B.C . 1 ancient Indian History en- 
ters upon its period of Magadhan imperialism. It was also 
the period in which tribal monarchies and confederations form- 
ed for offence and defence in the early stage were replaced 
by territorial monarchies. It was thus a refreshing change 
throughout India from the national monarchies (Janarajyas of 
the Satapatha Brahmana) to non-national territorial ones . 2 
We learn from the Buddhist Anguttara Nikaya 3 that in the 
seventh century B.C. there were sixteen great states scattered 
all over India. In the sixth centyry B.C. i.e. in the time of 
Bimbisara there were four kingdoms, — Kosala, Vatsa, Avanti 
and Magadha, of considerable size, besides a number of repu- 
blics or kingless states . 4 Out of these kingdoms and republics 

1 The date of Coronation of Bimbisara is C. 545 — 544. See 
PHAI 5 th Ed, p. 187. 

2 Kings became the masters cf their people as well as their 
rastra (T. Sah II. 3. 3 — 4).! 

Jayaswal (Hindu Polity Pt. II. p. 196) takes them to be a variety 
of large monarchy (i.e. Maharajya, Acfhipatya and S&vabhauma) 
based on territory, and not on nationality. 

3 III. 7. 70. tr., p. 192. 

4 Rhys Davids — Buddhist India p. 1. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


6l 

Magadha, a tiny state in Eastern India, came to the forefront, 
and gradually absorbing all other neighbouring states, betame 
the seat of a big empire. The task, by no means an easy 
one, was accomplished by a series of Magadhan rulers begin- 
ning with Bimbisara and ending with Asoka. Under. £he 
Sisunagas and the Nandas the royal power increased by 
leaps and bounds. They easily overaweed their neighbours 
by wars and won over by alliances and added slices of terri- 
tories to their dominions. These fresh conquests strengthened 
their hands and brought in their train power, prestige and weal- 
th, enabling them to maintain standing armies . 411 Through 
the combined efforts of Candragupta Maurya and Canakya 
the Nanda sovereignty was put an end to. The first Maurya 
ruler had the ability and sagacity to bring under his control vast 
territories and in no time Northern India, including portions 
of the Deccan land, became politically one . 5 The inevitable 
consequence of the imperialistic scheme initiated by Bimbi- 
sara, Ajatsatru, Sisunaga, Mahapadma Nanda was the growth 
of an ‘up-to-ocean’ empire, — ‘up to its natural frontiers,’ — 
a complete realisation of the Sarvabhauma or the Adhipatya 
ideal which was a favourite; notion of the Brahmana period . 54 
As soon as a far-flung empire sprang into existence, 
the question of national defence or territorial defence 
as opposed to tribal defence, so long pushed into the back- 
ground, turned out to be a thing of paramount importance 

4a C/o Megasthenes Frag. XXXVI. It is interesting to note 
that as early as the time of the Lord Buddha the people following 
military crafts existed. The list mentioned in King Ajatsatru’s 
question to his teacher includes elephant-riders, cavalry, charioteers, 
archers and nine different grades of army folk. Rhys Davids, Bud- 
dhist India (Indian Edition), pp. 56 — 57. 

5 PHAI 5 th Ed" p. 270. 

5a Ait.'Br. VIII. 15. 



62 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


« 

demanding the immediate attention of empire-builders and 
political thinkers. The Maurya empire (c. 321-185 B.' C.) 
appears to be the result of three political forces, — the disap- 
pearance of political Samghas in India, the rise of the Achae- 
mehian monarchy under Cyrus the Great in Persia and the 
invasion of the Punjab by Alexander the Great. Dr. R. C. 
Majumdar® rightly points out, — ‘The two factors— invasion 
from without and the growth of empire within, account for 
the decline and downfall of these political corporations... 
from the fifth century onwards they ceased to be the impor- 
tant factors in Indian politics.’ The collapse of the Persian 
Empire on the battlefield of Arbela (331 B.C.),— Greece’s 
fitting revenge for Thermopylae, served as an eye-opener to 
ancient Indians who probably keenly felt the necessity of 
having a centralised national government to defend the 
country from the irruption of foreigners and to protect life 
and property. In the 5th and 4th centuries India’s political 
and administrative history underwent a tremendous change 
and in the process of that change emerged a stately fabric, 
viz. the Maurya State, proving the truth of Dr.B.M. Barua’s 6 7 
observation. — ‘‘However remote ipay be the beginning of 
the history of India, all the earlier processes of her political 
history converged towards the steady rise of Magadha into 
an imperial state....” 

A change in political outlook was accompanied by a cor- 
responding change in the military system or defensive arrange- 
ments of the country. The reputation of India’s military 
capacity was seemingly on the increase. In the fifth century 
i.e. in pre-Maurya times, Indian troops (“Gandharians” and 


6 Corporate Life in A. I. pp. 121 — 22. EHL, 4th Kd., p. 153. 

7 Presidential address delivered in the Ancient India section 
of the Indian History Congress held under the auspices of the 
Annatnalai University in December 1943. 



NATIONAL DEFENCF IN PRACTICE 63 

“Indians”, — Infantry and Cavalry?) accompanied the vast 
army led by Xerxes 8 against Greece and took part in the battles 
of Thermopylae (480 B.C.) and Plataea (479 Northern 
India was*well known for her weapons of war, especially— 
swords and daggers; the quality of her steel was good. It Is 
stated in the famous Persian Epic poem, — Firdusi s ‘Shah- 
namah’ that when Alexander invaded India swords and other 
weapons were immediately indented for by the Persians from 
India. ‘The old (pre-Islamic) Arabic word for sword is 
‘ muhannad’ ' which means from ‘Hind’ or India. This is a 
word in common use still.’ We learn from Greaco-Roman 
writers that great standing armies had come into being in 
many of the Indian states, and that the use of many wea- 
pons, offensive and defensive, particularly the sword, was fre- 
quent. The Mahabharata speaks of Navy as one of the limbs 
of the. royal forces. 9 It is also believed that long before 
Alexander’s invasion the inhabitants of the seacoast towns of 
Sind resorted to piracy in the high seas through the help 
of sea-going vessels. Their raids threatened even the Per- 
sian Empire. The river Tigris, as ancient writers state, was 
practically closed to navigatipn and its course was obstructed 
by the throwing of stones. 10 It is just possible that pirate 
ships were the forerunner of a regular navy, and that to the 
four-fold army was added another important— the Navy at 
least in the Age of Alexander. When the Achaemenian 
monarchy of Persia was on its downward path and Alexander 
of Macedon was about to undertake his historic march from 
Pella to the Beas, the Uttarapatha or N.W. India was split 
up into a number of kingdoms and republics. On crossing 
the Hindukush Alexander, as classical authors say, subdued 
some of th£m, one or two states submitted to him, and from 

8 Herodotus VII. ’86. 9 Santiparva 59. 41.. 

10 Strabo*: Geography XVI. 7; Arrian VII. 7. 



64 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


some again, he met with stubborn resistance. This was ren- 
dered possible because most of these states possessed excellent 
military organisation. The fact that their land forces were 
not inadequate is evident from the writings of a number of 
classical writers. 

* 2. Army Strength of Indian States 


Lahd forces of the different Indian states in the time of 
the Macedonian invasion may, according to Alexander’s his- 
torians, be thus arranged : 



2® 

Sg- 

O « 

0 

S 





* 

M Q- 

<Q 

a 



CO 

j 

j 

j Page Rei 

M 

0 0 

0 4) 

S 0 

*C 

3 

J 

>» 

u 

a 

(0 

M-l 

>1 

»4 

'a 

> 

J 

a 

« 

JZ 

a 

j> • 

i 3 

0 

(9 

U 

94 

1 Massaga. 

Asvaka. 

38,000 

* 

• •• 

... 

102 

2 Porut. 

Puru, 

Pauravas. 

30,000 
[ 50,000 

j - 4,000 

J 

200 

... 

278 

3 The Malloi and 

Malava* 

90,000 

j - 3,000 

130 

1,000 


the Oxydrakai. 

Ksudrakas. 

80,000 

252 

4 The Abastanoi. 

• 

Ambastha®. 

60,000 

6,000 

... 

3,000 

285 

5 The Agalas&oi. 

People living 

10,000 

3,000 



221-22 


near the 

Sibi9. 





6 Agrammes, King 

Ugrasena . 

200,000 

20,000 

3,000 

2,000 

282 

of the Gangaridae 


200,000 

20,000 

4,000 : 

3,000 

310 

and the Prasii. 


200,000 

80,000 

6,000 i 

8,000 

16 

7 The Aasakanoi, 

P 

30,000 

20,000 

30 


324 

8 The Ambri and 



<, 




Sigambri. 

? 

80,000 

« 

60,000 

... 

... 


Mc’crindle— India and its invasion by Alexander. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 65 

y Graeco-Indian Conflict 

Geography forced upon ancient India the use of mounted 
warriors ftghtmg first from chariots and elephants, and after- 
wards from horses. She had always to take into consi dela- 
tion the nature of the ground. Prof. H. C. Ray 11 , While 
discussing the influence of geography, points out the 
strategic importance of the N.W. India, the northern 
portion of the Indo-Gangetic plain and the peninsular* India 
with special reference to India’s wars and invasions from 
outside. He refers to the Eastern and Western extremity 
of the Vindhyan belt — the Baroda gap and seems to believe 
that the Aryans must have followed this gap in entering 
the south, that the Andhras were threatened by the Saka 
satraps of the lower Indus valley along this gap, that the 
Calukyas realised the importance of this region and that 
this accounts for Harsa Siladitya’s failure against Pulakesi 
II. It is difficult to say when the cavalry was first used in 
India. Its use became general probably from the fourth 
century B. C., if we accept the testimony of Aelian 18 
who says that “horses wjere held in high esteem by the 
people of that century simply because of their “great use 
in arms and warfare.” In offering resistance to the 
Macedonian King Indian states brought into the field their 
cavalry, although all of them did not possess the Elephant 
corps . 13 After Ambhl, King of Taxila, had submitted, 
Alexander led his forces which were strengthened by the 
Taxilian contingents and a small number of elephants to 
meet Puru (Gk. Poros), King of the tract of land lying 
between the Jhelum and the Chenab. The result was 

u J. D. L. Vol. XIV. 1927. 

12 Mc’crindle— Ancient India, p. 142. 

13 Indra,’ p, 45. 


MSAI — 5 



66 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


th^ famous battle of the Hydaspes ( Vitasta = mpdftrn 
Jhelum) which took place, according to Dr. Smith 14 , 
early in July 326 B. C. In the contest that, followed 
P,|iru had to own defeat. His mounted troops were 
‘no* match for Alexander’s mobile cavalry,’ and his ele- 
phants proved a great source of weakness and confu- 
sion. Nevertheless, Puru’s efforts to defend his homeland 
are exemplary, and have won the profuse praise of writers. 
Dr. Smith 15 describes after Diodorus and Q. Curtius the 
Indian army assembled by the Punjab ruler to meet 
Alexander on the bank of the Hydaspes thus : 

“A stately force it was with which the Indian 
monarch moved forth to defend his country against the 
audacious invader from the West. Two hundred huge 
elephants, stationed at intervals of not less than a 
* thousand feet from one another, and probably in eight 
ranks, formed the front in the centre. The reliance of 
Puru was on these monsters who would, it was calcula- 
ted, terrify the foreign soldier and render the dreaded 
cavalry unmanageable. Behind the elephants stood 
a compact force of 30,000 infantry with projections on 
the wings, and files of the infantry were pushed forward 
in the intervals between the elephants, so that the 
Indian army presented very much the appearance of a 
city,— the elephants as they stood, resembling its towers 
and the men-at-arms placed between them, resembling 
the lines of wall intervening between tower and 
tower (Diodorus XVII. 87). Both flanks were pro- 
tected by cavalry with chariots, in front. The cavalry 
numbered 4,000 and Chariots 300. Each chariot was 

14 E]HI 4th, Ed., p. 91. 

15 Ibid., pp. 69 — 70. 




68 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


drawn by four horses and carried six men of whom, two 
were archers stationed one on each side of the vehicle, 
two were shield-bearers and two charioteers, who in the 

<5 

stress of battle were wont to drop the reins and ply the 
enemy with darts.” (Q. Curtius VIII. i4) 15& 

This is a trusted account of the forces employed and the 
movement of the army planned by the Indian ruler against 
his European adversary. As to the equipment of the Indian 
infantry, each foot soldier carried with him a broad and a 
long buckler of undressed oxhide. He was also armed with 
either javelin or bow which is described as being ‘made of 
equal length with the man who bears it; this they rest 
upon the ground, and pressing it with their left foot thus 
discharge the arrow having drawn the string backwards; 
for the shaft they use is little short of being three yards 
long, and there is nothing that can resist an Indian archer’s 
shot, — neither shield nor breast-plate, nor any stronger 
defence, if such there be.’ 16 

4. Battle of the Hydaspes , 

The battle of the Hydaspes (Vitasta = modern Jhelum) 
was fought and won by Alexander and further advance lay 

15a C/o Megasthenes: Frag: XXXV. The chariot carries two 
men who sk beside the charioteer. The war-elephant, either in 
what is called the tower or on his bare back in sooth, carries three 
fighting men of whom two shoot from the side, while one shoots 
from behind. There is also a fourth man, Who carries in 
his hand the goad wherewith he guides the aninud mrch in 
the same way as the plot and captain of a ship direct its course 
with the helm.’ 

16 Arrian — Indika, Chap. XVI.- 



THE 8 ATT LE F 1 £ LD OF 

THE HVDASPES 



APPROXIMATE SCAlg 

I II » I fc I 1 — " 


10 MIL** 



JO MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

opqn to him. The following is Arrian’s description of the 
fate of the battle : 

“The elephants being now cooked up within a narrow 
space, did no less damage to their friends than to their 
f6cs, trampling them under their feet as they wheeled 
and pushed about. These resulted in consequence a 
great slaughter of the cavalry, cooped up as it was 
wfthin a narrow space around the elephants. Many of 
the elephantdrivers had been shot down, and of the 
elephants themselves some had been wounded, while 
others both from exhaustion and the loss of their 
mahouts, no longer kept to their own side of the 
conflict, but as if drive frantic by their sufferings, 
attacked friend and foe quite indiscriminately, pushed 
them, trampled them down and killed men in all 
manner of ways.” 

The defeat of Poros was not due to any lack of courage 
or resourcefulness. The elephants proved unreliable and 
dangerous. It may be stated incidentally that the elephants 
were first profitably used on Italian soil by Pyrrhus, king 
of Epirus and that he owed his victory at Heraclea (280 
B.C.) to the elephants who inspired terror. 17 Nearly half 
a century before and to the great disadvantage of the 
Indian king, terror was turned into a terrible confusion. 
Dr. Smith argues that ‘the Indian archers fighting from 
the chariots were not as competent as the bowmen of 
Alexander and the slippery state of the ground hindered 
the Indian infantry from making full use of their for- 
midable bow.’ He further states that the military value of 
Indian foot soldiers was often very small. Although they 
were used in large numbers, their defect was that the line 

17 Mommsen-— History of Rome, Vol. I, p. 394. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


V 


between soldiers and their followers was not strictly drawn. 1 ** 
As in the Epic and Puranic times, so also here the Indian 
infantry failed to rise to the occasion and contributed little 
to the winning of the battle. It did not do the attacking 
in an orderly fashion and in close formations. The heroic 
resistance put up by Puru, however, remains a glorious 
chapter in Indian history. In ancient India the fate* of 
battles was sealed invariably as soon as the king leading his 
forces in person was put to flight. Such was the case even 
in the age of the Moghuls in India, and as Irvine writes, 
(The Army of the Indian Moghuls, p. 299). ‘The death 
or disappearance of the general-in-chief always decided the 
battle. If Plutarch 19 is to be believed, Puru did not flee, — 
the battle which lasted for 8 hours was of a more mixed 
kind, though the Hydaspes was a Macedonian victory, 
“Military critics,” says one writer, 20 “cannot point to a 
single strategic error in the whole series of operations con- 
ducted by Alexander himself or his generals acting under 
his orders from the time he encamped on the banks of the 
Hydaspes till the overthrow and surrender of Poros. At 
the sametime the courage and skill with which the Indian 
king contended against the greatest soldier of antiquity, if 
not of all times, are worthy of the highest admiration, and 
present a striking contrast to the incompetent generalship 
and pusillanimity of Darius. ”... “The Greeks”, says Chesncy, 
“were loud in praises of the Indians; never in all their 
eight years of constant warfare had they met with such skilled 
and gallant soldiers, who, however, surpassed in stature and 


18 orii pp. 64, 82. 19 Alexander, p. 212. 

20 From Polyainos’s work on the Stratagems of War (II. IV. 
22) quoted by Mc’crindle in his ‘India and its invasion by Alexan- 
der/ p. 345* ff. 



JZ MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

bearing all other races of Asia.” 304 Dr. S. Chattapadhaya, 31 
while examining Alexander’s exploits and the extent of his 
conquests in India, has questioned the veracity of the state- 
ments made by classical authors. About Alexander’s 
struggle with Poros he writes,— ‘Poros inflicted a heavy 
loss on the Macedonian garrison,... The war was evidently 
a drawn game, and Poros was able to maintain his own 
position... The classical authors have evidently twisted facts 
to glorify their own hero.’ Poros fought at least a fair 
battle and owned an honorable defeat, in consonance with 
the Epic and Puranic traditions. The Indian princes 
adhered to the practice of fair fighting and the military 
code prescribed by the ancient texts. 31 * Dr. Thomas rightly 
points out, ‘As regards the ethics of fighting, the Greeks 
received an impression of something not unchivalrous.’ 
(CHI I, p. 490). 

The latest study of Alexander the Great and his work 
in Asia is that by Sir W. Tarn (Alexander the Great in 
two parts, Cambridge, 1950). The learned professor has 
carefully made some corrections and re-arrangements of the 
confused Greek text of Arrian. One of his conclusions is 
that the Macedonian conqueror employed in the field of the 


20a C jo Arrians Anabasis VI. 2, (‘In war the Indians were by 
far the Bravest of the races inhabiting Asia at that time.’) 

21 IHQ, Deer. 1949. 

aia In the Age of die Upanisads and Sutras often finds great 
emphasis made on the high ethical standards of the rates of battle. 
Aman (Mccrindle: Ancient India, pp. 216) says that in times of 
civil war husbandmen were exempted from molestation by . soldiers 
and were allowed to go on with their peaceful occupations even if 
they lived close to the scene. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


73 


Hydaspcs 53,000 cavalry and about 15,000 infantry in 
place of the generally accepted figure 6,000. The movement 
of the twp regiments of cavalry under Koinos did not 
proceed in the way it has been shown in the plan of the 
battle given in Dr. V. Smith’s Early History of India, .4th 
Ed. p. 86. The figures used by classical authors are 
sometimes inflated. (Vide Tarn: Alexander the Great II, 
p. 190, pp. 193-196. See Map at page 67.) 

The Beas (Hyphasis) was the culminating point of 
Alexander’s advance in India. 22 The war-weariness among 
his soldiers is stated to be the main cause of his retreat from 
the banks of the Hyphasis, 23 but one is tempted to weigh 
carefully the statement of Plutarch. 24 

‘The opposite shore, (The Ganges) too, was covered 
with numbers of squadrons, battalions and elephants. For 
the Kings of Candarites and Praesians were said to be 
waiting for them (Macedonians) there, with 80,000 horses, 
200,000 foot, 8,000 chariots and 6,ooo elephants trained 
to war. Nor is this number at all magnified, for 
Androcottus (Candragupta?) who reigned not long after, 
made Seleucus a present of 300 elephants at one time and 
with an army of 600,000 fiien traversed India and con- 


22 Megasthenes, Frag. XXB. Selin. 52 6 — 7. 

23 C/o Plutarch’s Lives — -‘But the combat with Poros abated 
the spirit of the Macedonians and made them resolve to proceed 
no further in India.’ 

24 Lives, # p. 213. While giving a general description of India, 
Diodorus XVIII, 6) says, ‘It is inhabited by very many nations, 
among which the greatest of all is that of the Gangaridai, against 
whom Alexander did not undertake an expedition, being deterred 
by the multitude of their elephants’. 



74 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


qyered the whole.’ So far as the military strength qf 'the 
Prasii is concerned, a somewhat different account is found 
in Pliny. 25 ‘The Prasii surpass in power and glory every 
Qther people, not only in this quarters, but one may say 
in Till India, their capital being Palibothra, a very large and 
wealthy city. ..their king has in his pay a standing army of 
600,000 foot soldiers, 30,000 cavalry and 9,000 elephants.’ 

By 325 B. C the Macedonian inroad was over. The 
success, however, of Alexander’s campaign in N.W. India, 
when taken as a whole, undeniably shows the superiority 
of his strategy in breaking the lines of Indian defence. 
The direct result of his raid was superficial. We are con- 
cerned more with the ultimate effect of this great event. 
The most important indirect effect was that it helped the 
cause of Indian political unity and paved the way for the 
advent of Candragupta Maurya, the national herodting of 
Pataliputra. It goes to the credit of ancient India that her 
inhabitants, inspite of their reverses at the time of Alexan- 
der’s invasion, did not lose faith in their own military sys- 
tem based on the ‘four-limbed army’, nor did they show 
any disposition to imitate the European method of warfare 
which they saw before their eyes. The revolution which 
overthrew the Greek rule in the Northwest was headed by 
one Candragupta who is said to have descended on his 
father’s side from the royal family of the Nandas. Accord- 
ing to one account, he was the son of the Nanda King 
Sarvarthasiddhi by Mura, daughter of a Sudra woman. 
Buddhist tradition makes him a scion of the Moriya clan 
which belonged to the Ksatriya caste and ruled over the 
small republic of Pipphalivana as early as the sigth century 


25 Hist. Nat. Bk. VI. G. 22. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


75 


B.C. 26 . According to tradition, he had served the Nanjla 
King of Magadha in the capacity of a Sen2pati, but some- 
how incurred the displeasure of his royal master and was 
expelled from Magadha. He took to his heels and oo 
reaching the Punjab met, as Justin and Plutarch say, the 
Macedonian King. There he offended the Greek conqueror 
by the boldness of his speech and had to leave the Punjab. 
He then returned to the east, and with the help of Canakya 
overthrew the Nanda dynasty and ascended the throne of 
Pataliputra in about 321 B.C. 27 This was immediately 
followed by the expulsion of the Greeks and the liberation 
of the Punjab from the foreign yoke. A few years had 
scarcely passed when he was faced with a new danger. 
Seleucus Nikator, one of the greatest generals, had inherited 
the Asiatic dominions of Alexander and seemed ever 
watchfiil to revive the glories of his master by recovering 
the Punjab. But he was soon disillusioned. 28 He invaded 
India in about 305 B.C. But he does not appear to have 
advanced far into the country. The details of the struggle 
between Scleucos and Candragupta are not obtainable from 
classical authors; only the 'results are recorded. It seems 
probable that Candragupta won a second triumph over his 
Greek adversary who entered into a treaty of peace 29 by 


26 Mahaparinibban Sutta. S. B. E. XI. pp. 134 — 35. Maha- 

vainsa, — Geiger’s tr. p. 27; PHAI 5th ed., pp. 180 — 181. 

27 Visnupurana IV. 24; For discussion on the date of Candra- 
guptai’s accession, vide AHI, pp. 99 — 100. 

28 "He JSelcucos) crossed the Indus and waged war on S“ndro> 
cottas, King of the Indians who dwelt about it, until he made 
friends and entered into relations of marriage with him.’ (Appianus 
Syr. C. 55). _ 

29 Justinus XV. 4 



;6 


MILITARY SYSTEM iN ANCIENT INDIA 


ceding Aria (Herat), Arachosia (Kandahar), Gedrosia (Muk- 
ran) and Parapanisadai (Kabul). — the Indian monarch giving 
five hundred elephants in return.* 0 Soon after she conclu- 
sion of peace Seleucos sent Megasthenes as ambassador to 
the' ‘court of Candragupta at Pataliputra. This marked 
the beginning of India’s diplomatic relations with Hellenistic 
countries and recognition of her independent status and 
evolution of her foreign policy. The humiliation of Seleu- 
cos and the incorporation of his four satrapies into Candra- 
gupta’s empire extended the limits of the Maurya empire to 
the foot of the Hindukush and invested it with great res- 
ponsibilities, as Candragupta at once ‘entered into that scien- 
tific frontier sighed for in vain by his English successors and 
never held in its entirety even by the Moghul emperors of 
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries’. 31 It reflects great 
credit on Candagupta and his successors on the Imperial 
throne that they ably guarded the north-western frontier 
for over a century, and not a speck of dark cloud appeared 
on that horizon until their strong hands were withdrawn 
and the Maurya military organisation showed signs of 
deterioration for more than one reason. Asoka’s change of 
foreign policy and his otherworldliness 'must have created 
some apathy to militarism, political greatness and material 
well-being’. 33 

5. Military Organisation of the Maurya Empire 

For detailed account of the Maurya military system and 
of the numerical strength of the army with which Candra- 
gupta drove out the foreigners, liberated the country and 

30 Strabo XV, 724. 

31 EHI 4th ed., p. 126. 

32 PHAI, 236. Bhandarkar — Asoka, p. 244. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


77 


established his undisputed sway over Northern India, we 
are indebted to Arthasastra and Greek writers, especially 
Megasthenes. Candragupta’s army, thoroughly Indian in 
character, organisation and equipment, consisted of four 
parts, 3211 — the traditional caturangabala — Infantry, cavalry, 
chariots and elephants. According to Megasthenes, 33 the 
standing army comprised 60,000 infantry, 30,000 cavalry, 
9,000 elephants and a large number of chariots. Op the 
strength of Kautilya’s statement we may add the fleet and 
the transport corps. Magasthenes informs us that the 
Maurya emperor’s huge army was efficiently administered 
by a well-organised war-office in charge of a commission of 
thirty, divided into six boards, each board served by five 
members in the following manner 34 : 

Board No. I in co-operation with the Admiral' — Admiralty. 

Board No. II — Transport, Commissariat army service in- 
cluding the provision of drummers, 3411 
grooms and mechanics and grass cutter. 

Board No. Ill — Infantry. 

Board No. IV — Cavalry. # 

Board No. V — War-Chariots. . 

Board No. VI — Elephants. 

32a “Strabo makes a sextuple division by adding the commissariat 
and naval department”. Mc’Crindle — 'Ancient India, p. 89 fn. 

33 Indika, p. 156. 

34 Mc'Crindle — Ancient India, p. 88 

34a This reference to the army service including the provision 
for drummers shows that military music played with the advancing 
army in th£ Maurya period. It was probably an older custom 
dating from the Vedic age. We have the reference to war drum 
(Vherighosa) in the inscription of Asoka. (Rock Edict No. IV. 
Also Arth. Sas. tr. Bk. V. Chap. III). 



7 8 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


“His (Candragupta’s) organisation”, writes Dr. Smith , 35 
“must have been as efficient in practice as it was systematic 
on paper, as it enabled not only, in the _ words of 
Plutarch , 38 “to overrun and subdue all India, but also 
to >sxpel the Macedonian garrison, and to repel the invasion 
of Seleukos.” 

6. Maury a Navy 

That the Mauryas built and commanded a navy may, 
in the present stage of our knowledge, be accepted as 
almost certain, although their naval achievements are 
still to be determined. Their empire, at least in the 
time of Asoka, reached the sea, both in the West and 
the East. There are literary and epigraphic evidences 
proving the inclusion of Bengal and Kathiawara, within 
Asoka’s empire . 37 Moreover, it is not quite inconceivable 
that steps had been taken to prevent piratical raids on 
seaboard towns by the Government which had left no 
department of human life outside its scope . 38 Megas- 
thenes as quoted by Arrian refers to the Board of 
Admiralty 39 and Kautilya 49 , mentions Baladhyaksas. In 
answer to the question raised by Dr. Smith 41 that the 


35 EHI 4th Ed., p. 133. 36 Lives, p. 213. 

37 C/o Accounts given in Divyovadana, Hiucn. Tsang, Dr. 
Smith’s ASoka (p. 223) and Junagadh inscription of Rudradamana. 
Ep. Ind. VIII. p. 42 ff. 

38 For socialistic functions of the Kautilyan state see Arrha- 
Sastra Bk. II. Chap. II & XII and Bk. IV. Chap. it. 

39 Mc’Crindle — Ancient India, p. 218. 

40 Kaut Shyama Sastri’s tr., p. 69. 

41 EHI 4th Ed., p. 148. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


79 


Boatds described by Megasthenes as in charge of tjie 
business of the capital and the army unknown to 
Kautilya, Pr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri 42 clearly states that 
“the magistrates in charge of the city and those in charge, 
of military affairs are evidently the same as the Nagtfra- 
dhyakass and Baladhyaksas of the Arthasastra.” Mon- 
ahan’s 43 suggestion that the Navadhyaksa was a purely 
civil official, as there is no historical record of naval 
battle in the Maurya period, does not carry conviction when 
we recall Dr. Ray Chaudhuri’s arguments which run 
as folllows : 

‘It is a mistake to think that the Navadhyaksa of 
the early Hindu period was a purely civil official, for, 
he was responsible for the destruction of Himsrlkas (pirate 
ships) and the Mahabharata (XII. LIX. 41-44) clearly 
refers to the navy as one of the angas of the Royal 
forces.’ 

“There (the chapter on Navadhyaksa in Arthasastra) 
we find,” writes Dr. N.N. Law 44 , “the regulation that 
the pirate-ship should be destroyed and that the ships 
of an enemy’s country illegally crossing its limits as also 
violating the harbour rules should be similarly treated. 
The taking of this step would not .have been possible if 
Navadhyaksa had not under him vessels equipped with 
armament to carry out the regulation.” “Thus, there is 
some justification for saying that Candragupta’s govern- 
ment maintained a navy. 44 * The duty of the naval 


42 PHAI, p, 194. 

43 Early’ History of Bengal, p. 163. 

44 Studies in Ind. Hist. & Culture, p. 242. 

44a Prof. Dikshitar (Mauryan polity, pp. 367 — 68) notes that 
'among the seagoing vessels men-of-war also appear, bound for the 



8o 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


superintendent was very responsible. It may be further 
argued that the naval organisation of the first Maurya 
ruler remained unimpaired till the death of Asoka. 
.Wc know that Asoka had political relations with the 
rulers of Tamrapanni (Ceylon), Egypt, Syria, Cyrene, 
Macedonia and Epirus. 45 Dr. Smith holds the view that 
the maintenance of political relations with so distant 
countries indicates the existence of sea-going vessels and 
naval troops. 40 One writer even suggests the existence 
of Indian navy in pre-Maurya times and opines that 
the ships by which Alexander sent back part of his 
soldiers under Nearchus were built and collected in 
India. 47 It is further learnt from Arrian (Indika 27.1) 
that Nearchos, admiral of Alexander’s navy, got a 
guide from Gedrosia who was acquainted with the coast 
as far as the gulf of Ormuz. On the basis . of this 
account Dr. S. Chattapadhya opines ‘that in the 
Achaemenian age Indian vessels were coasting along 
Gedrosia to Arabia and the Persian gulf and that the 
Indians of the Western borderland possibly took part 
in this maritime trade”. 40 Itus thus possible to hazard 
the conclusion that the ‘merchant vessels were the 
forerunners of men-of-jvar and that the history of Indian 


enemy’s country (amitravisyatigSh), Kautilya (Bk. II. Chap. 28) 
mentions ocean loutes, river routes and routes for coastal traffic 
(Kulapatha). 

45 Rock Edict No. XIII. 

46 Edicts of Asoka. Intro. VIII. 

47 Navy in ancient India- -an article by Sasibhusfcn Mukherjee 
in Masik Basumati, Kartic 1347 B.S. Also C/o Mc’Crindle — In- 
vasion of India by Alexander, p. 156. 

48 IHQ June, 1950. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 8l 

navy .may be traced as far back as the fourth centu/y 
B.C,, if not earlier. 

7 . Roads 

The Arthasastra of Kautilya tells us that construction 
of roads was one of the primary duties of the 
King. 4 * The Maurya state, which was a highly organised 
one, must have paid sufficient attention to the construction 
and maintenance of public roads for civil and military 
purposes. The royal officers, as Megasthenes says, construc- 
ted roads and there were sign-boards at intervals of ten 
stades. The Maurya capital was connected with the 
N. W. Frontier by a road running from Taxila to Pataii- 
putra, probably the counterpart of a road built by Sher 
Shah in the sixteenth century and renovated by Dalhousie 
in the nineteenth. It is just possible that in the fourth 
century B.C. the Magadhan emperors covered the country 
with a net-work of roads. It will be of interest to note 
here that the first and greatest of Roman roads, — the Via 
Appia was built by the Censor Appius Claudius in 312 
B.C. during the Samnite wars to maintain Roman military 
communications and to spread Roman civilisation. Pro- 
visions were also made for ferries and bridges over rivers. 
The existence of roads, ferries and bridges proved highly 
beneficial for movement of trade and army. Referring to 
the royal road Pliny* 0 says that the stages and distances 
are as follows: 

1. From- Pcukeloatis (Pushkaravatl) to the Hyphasis 
(Beas) as treasured by Baeto and Diognetus,-— Alexander’s 
survey officers. 


49 Kaut. tr., p. 50. 

MSAI — 6 


50 I. VI- 71, 



82 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Peukeloatis to Taxila — 60 miles. 

„ „ Hydaspes — 120 miles. 

,, „ Hyphasis — 390 miles. 

2. From the Hyphasis to the mouth of the Ganges 
as measured by Seleukos Nikator (probably by Megas- 
thenes and other Greek visitors). 

From the Hyphasis to the Hesidrus — 168 miles. 

„ • ,, Hesidrus „ ,, Jamna — 160 miles. 

„ ,, Jamna ,, ,, Ganges — 112 miles. 

,, ,, Ganges ,, ,, Rhodophe — 119 miles. i0a 

8 . Cities and their Defences ; Beginnings of Military 

Architecture 

Cities, whose number in ancient India was appreciable 
and which were generally situated on the bank of a t»iver or 
at the foot or by the side of a hill or hills, were generally 
well fortified. In the fourth century B.C. cities were defended 
‘both by art and nature’. Some detailed description may be 
gathered from the Greek writers of the natural and artificial 
defence of towns and cities in the age of Alexander. 
We may refer to three important cities and their 
defensive works— the„ cities which had borne the 
onslaughts of Alexander during his famous campaign in 
N.W. India. The Greek invader attacked the formid- 
able nation called the Assakanoi (Sanskrit Asmoka?) 
with a view to capture their stronghold Massaga. The 
storming of the citadel was effected at a terrible cost. 
Indian resistance was probably tough, and in the words of 
Diodorus, ‘the women taking the arm of the fallen, fought 

50a H. G. Rawlinson: Intercourse between India and Western 
World App. I, p, 64. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


8} 


sid$ by side with the men,’ Massaga was a formida^e 
fortress lying probably to the north of the Malakand Pass. 51 
On the north and west stood rocks, chasms and morassas. 
How well^defended it was can be realised from the follow- 
ing pen-picture of Curlius : 51 “ 

“An army of 38,000 infantry defended the city 
which was strongly fortified by nature and art, for, on 
the east, an impetuous mountain stream with steep t banks 
on both sides barred approach to the city, while to the 
south and west, nature, as if designing to form a ram- 
part, had filed up gigantic rocks at the base of which 
lay sloughs and yawning chasms hallowed in the course 
of ages to vast depths, while a ditch of mighty labour 
drawn from their extremity continued the line of defence. 
The city was besides surrounded with a wall of 35 sta- 
dia.in circumference which had a basis of stone work 
supporting a super-structure of unburnt sundried bricks. 
The brick work was bound into a solid fabric by means 
of stone so interposed that the more brittle material 
rested upon the harder, while moist clay had been used 
for mortar, lest, however, the structure should at all 
sink, strong beams had been laid upon these, supporting 
wooden floors which crossed ^thc walls and afforded a 
passage along them.” 

The fall of Massaga where Alexander treacherously 
massacred fighting men reminds us of the prolonged siege 
and ultimate collapse in the sixteenth century of the im- 
pregnable fore of Astrgarh in rugged Khandesh which com- 

51 ‘A formidable fortress probably situated not very far to the 
north of the Malakand Pass, but not yet precisely identified.’ AGI 
p. 667. 

51a Mc’Cfindlo — Inv. of India by Alexander, pp. 194 — 195, 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


«4 


tended the road to the Deccan, a definite stage in the 
Deccan policy and the example of a piece of questionable 
strategy of Akbar, the Great Moghul . 82 

Having captured Ora or Nora, Alexander’ fell upon 
Aorttos near the Indus. All classical writers agree in calling 
it a ‘rock fort.’ The city’s strategic strength was enormous. 
Its defences have been thus described by Arrian j , 58 

- “It was ascended by a single path cut by the hand 
of man, yet difficult. On the summit of the rock, there 
was, it is said, plenty of pure water which gushed out 
from a copious spring. There was timber besides, and 
as much good arable land as required for its cultivation 
the labour of a thousand men.” 


In connection with the subjugation of the Aspasians 
(Aspasianss=Skr. Afvaka) by Alexander, we hear of the 
fortified position of their city. 53a It was, if Arrian is to be 
believed, accompanied by a double line of defence . 84 The 
same author speaks of the capital city of the Malloi (Sanskrit 
Malava) as ‘the strongest of all the cities that lay near’. 


52 For different views on the ' subject — chose of Abul Fazi, 
Faizi, the Jesuits and Dr. Smith, see Ishwariprosad : A Short His- 
tory of Muslim Rule, pp. 393 — 95. 

53 Mc’Crindlc, Inv. of India by Alex., p. 71. 

53a In the difficult hill country north of the Kabul river — AGI, 
p. 667, 

54 This reminds one of the fortified position of the city of 
Babylon in the 5th century when the Ten Thousand Greek mer- 
cenary soldiers advanced towards the Persian capital. Thus, ‘the 
city of Babylon was protected by a double defence again!* an enemy 
approaching from the north, by a line of wall and a line of water, 
both connecting the Euphrates with the Tigris/ Bury. Hist, of 
Greece, p. 521. 



NATIONAL. DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 8«> 

Plucaich (Life of Alex. Chap. LX.; Mc’Crindle, p. 30^) 
describes them as the most warlike of the all Indians. 
Instances .of fortified cities and towns with towers, gates, 
walls, parapets, earthen ramparts and ditches may de mut 
tiplied. Care was taken in the Maurya period to provide 
Patali-putra with all the means of defence that men could 
devise and time could reasonably supply. The Maurya 
capital was built in the tongue of land between the Gang! 
and the Son, an excellent natural position, — ‘a position re- 
commended by the writers of text- books and frequently 
adopted by the ancient Indians in practice.’* 41 Megasthcnes’ 35 
description of Pataliputra as quoted by Arrian in his Indika 
is superb. “The city was 9.1 / 5 miles in length and 1.1/2 
miles in breadth. It was defended by a massive timber 
palisade not by a brickwall, pierced by sixty-four gates and 
crossed *by five hundred and seventy towers. The palisade 
had loopholes for archers to shoot through and outside 
there was a ditch, 30 cubits deep and 400 cubits broad. 
The ditch was filled with the waters of the Son.” 

The military architecture had already begun to develop 
in India, and Dr. P. C. Chakravarty’s 36 remark on the 
nature and development o£ this essential art deserves 
mention ; _ • 

‘It is important to note that the age witnessed a signi- 
ficant development in the history of military architecture 
in India. Most of the towns were defended by means of 
of surrounding walta, but in some cases as a measure of 
additional protection strongly fortified citadels were added 

54a C/o Kautilya’s instructions on the choice of sites Arth. Eng. 
tr., p. 49. * . 

55 Frag. 25. Strabo XV. C. 702 also C/o Kaut Bk. II. Chap. 
Ill and Sintiparva Chap. 86. 

56 AWAl, p. 134. 



86 


MILITARY SYSTFM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


wYthin the walls. It will appear from a careful perusal of 
the texts that the citadel was built in one corner of the 
town, usually in the part which was most secure and well 
defended and that a continuation of the town wall formed 
its outer side. The citadel served as the ultimate refuge 
of the besieged when the outer defences of the town were 
captured or destroyed by the assailing force. It was the 
last resort to which the garrison retired in desperate extre- 
mity.’ Thus it is clear that with the growth of military 
architecture in this age towns could not be occupied with 
perfect ease by an invader; they could at least offer resistance 
and stand long sieges. 

9. Military System in Kautilya 

No account of India’s ancient history, be it political, 
social, economic or military, is complete without a brief 
reference to the Arthasastra, generally ascribed to Canakya, 
prime-minister of Candragupta Maurya. Whoever may be 
its author and whatever may be the date of its com- 
position 57 - (these are matters of endless controversy), it is a 
comprehensive work on state-craft, law and military system. 
It contains some military matters and a good deal of theo- 
retical discussion on methods of warfare, diplomacy and 
military organisation as a whole. “Though formally a 
sastra,” writes an Indian scholar 58 “it is unquestionably 
based on the realities of civil and military administration,., 

57 Messrs Ganapati Sastri, Shy.i'ma Sastri, Thomas, Hopkins, 
V. A- Smith, Jayaswal and R. G. Basak assign the work to the 4th 
Cen,tury B. C.; while Messrs Winternitz, $oIly, D. R. Bhandar- 
kar, H. C. Raychaudhuri & others hold that it was written in the 
early centuries of the Christian era. 

58 AWA1 Intro: p. 6. 



NATIONAL DEFENCti IN PRACTICE 


8 ? 

we ’may assign the military ideas and institutions o£ Ka^f- 
tilya’s work roughly to the period from 300 B.C. to too 
A.D.” 58 \ As the author drew materials from previous 
Arthasastras (the author himself refers to previous authors 
and different schools), the picture given in the book .may 
be looked upon as the one representing the age of Magadhan 
imperialism, especially when we remember the fact that the 
account of the Maurya administrative system as outlined 
by MegasthCnes, tallies substantially with that laid down 
by Kautilya. 59 

Capable as it was to make or mar a state, the army 
occupied a very important place in ancient Hindu politi- 
cal thought. On it depended the integrity of the state 
organisation. 60 The division of the army into four 
categories, — caturangabala or caturangacamu has been 
mentioned in the Epic and Puranic literature. It also 
finds mention in the Jataka stories and Manu-Samhita. 61 
In Book II of the Artbasastra Kautilya mentions super- 
intendents of Shipping (nau), Horses (Asva), Elephants 6,a 
(Hasti) and Infantry (Patti), and details their duties. He 

regards the army (bala) as one of the seven elements 

• 

58a Kaut. tr. Bk. VI. Chap. I. 

59 Dr. N. N. Law — Studios in Ancient Indian Hist. Culture 
pp. 247—49. 

60 C/o Sukraniti, B. K. Sircar’s tr. v. 12. 

61 Adiparva 69. 4. Viratparva 68 13. The Jataka. tr. by Cowell 
II. 66. 15. Manu. Chap. VII. 185. 

61a Elaborate regulations for military training of elephants are 
laid clown in Kautilya. It is of seven kinds, viz. drill (Upasthana), 
turning (Samvartana), advancing (Samyana), trampling down and 
kill?ng (Vadhavadha), fighting with other elephants (hastyyuddha.), 
assailing forts and cities nagarayanam) and warfare. — Arth. tr. p. 
167. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


88 


62 


\rakrtis) of the state and discusses the qualities of each, 
the best army should, according to him, conform to the 
following qualities : 

“Coming down directly from father and grandfather 
^pf the king), ever strong, obedient, happy in keeping 
their sons and wives well contended, not adverse to 
making a long sojourn, ever and everywhere invincible, 
endowed with the power of endurance, trained in 
fighting various kinds of battles, skilful in handling 
various forms of weapons, ready to share in the weal 
or woe of the king, and consequently not falling 
foul with him, and purely composed of soldiers of 
Kshatriya caste,..” 

He has divided the army into five classes in the 
ollowing manner : oaa 


I. Maula or regular hereditary army or the army of 
the line (a). 

II. Brita or mercenary troops (b). 

III. Srcnlbala — troops of corporations or guilds 

which were bound to supply troops; these 
fought on short period service (c). 

IV. Atavika troops or auxiliaries supplied by wild 
tribes (d). 

V. Mitrabala (allied contingents) supplied by feuda- 
tories or allies (e). 


62 Arth. Bk. VI. Chap. I. pp. 309 — n. 

62a Kant. tr. Bk. VII. Chap. VII. p. 343. 

(a) Maulas were probably the same as Hiuen Tsang% ‘National 
guard of India’. According to Sukraniti the Maula army has 
been existing since the origin of the state (B. K. Sirkar’s tr., p. 
217). 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


89 

•The composition of the army as suggested by Kautilvfi 
was thus a mixed one with all its inherent merits and 
demerits. The Age of the Arthasastra was the age of an 
imperialist state and an imperialist state, bent on conques^ 
and annexation, should possess the strongest standing 
army. From the close of the Fourth century B.C., the 
strongest Indian state i.e. Magadha must have commanded 
the biggest military forces, whatever might have .been 
the nature of their composition. 

As regards the scope of recruitment to the army, the 

(b) The first historical reference to the employment of merce- 
nary soldiers is to be found in the Cachnatna which states that Dahir, 
Rai of Sind, had in his employ 300 Arab troopers under the leader- 
ship of Muh Alafi-Elliot Vol. I, p. 156. 

(c) There is difference of opinion among scholars regarding their 
real character. Dr. R. C. Majumdai (Cor. Life, in A. I. pp. 30-31) 
calls them “a class of guilds which followed some industrial arts 
and carried on military profession at one and the sametime.” “Srenis 
probably refer to ordinary trade-guilds and an organisation for calling 
out the people for service in time of invasion, a sort; of militia, or 
landwchr” CHI. Vol. I. p. 489. *lhc military hen is were special 
troops who served for Army under a .contract (Monahan EHB, 
pp. 76—7). 

(cl) “The mention of atavikabalam” as part of military esta- 
blishment in the Arthasastra shows that the army goes back to 
very early times. Thtre predatory hordes used to live in vast for- 
ests and inaccessible mountains.” AWAI, p. 9. 

(e) According to Sukra the army is of two kinds.*— one's own 
and that befonging to the allies. It meant forces attached to each 
independent state and was lent to fight enemies external or inter- 
nai In later periods of Hindu India employment of feudal militia 
became a common feature. 



9 ° 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


probability is that soldiers and generals were recruited 
from all the classes, — Brahmanas, Ksatriyas, Sudras and 
Vaisyas (Kaut. tr., p, 417). Kautilya himself prefers a 
^purely Ksatriya army (Bk. VI. Chap. I.). There are literary 
and, epigraphic evidences too, of the Brahmanas serving 
and occupying position of responsibility in the army. 
Sukra’s advice is that all the twice-born classes are to 
takc.up arms when Dharma is in danger. Alexander 
besieged “a city of Brahmanas” and the defenders of 
the city fought with vigour for sometime (Me’ Crindle, 
Inv. of Alex., pp. 143-44). Pusyamitra Sunga was the 
Brahmana Commander-In-Chief of the last Maurya King, 
Brthadratha. The Vakataka King Prthivlsena described 
as “Mahabaladhikrta” was a Brahmana. 63 Vaidyadeva, 
the minister of Kumarapala and a great general, was 
likewise a Brahmana. 6311 Employment of foreigners was not 
altogether a rarity. 64 The Brta of the Arthasastra may 
be cited as an instance of mercenary troops recruited 
in or outside one’s own country. Plutarch’s observation 
is worthy of note. “The most warlike of the Indians 


63 2. Sp. Ind. X 72. 

63a HP. Ind. 348. II. \ fn. 

64 The composition of the Bengal army during the Pala period — 
Vide Int. Ant. XIX. 38. The Kashmerian Kings used to recruit 
soldiers from Rajputana and other parts of the country (Rajatarah- 
gini VII. 1868. VIII. 2264. XV. 306). Like the Normans in 
Mediaeval Europe the Rajputs lent the service of their sword in 
different localities and won great reputation. According to one 
writer (Monahan EHB, p. 19) ‘from very early times wars in India 
have been usually carried on by professional mercenary soldiers . . . 
An Tndian state has been able to maintain a relatively powerful 
army, recruited in part, from beyond its own frontiers.’ 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


9 * 


used to fight for pay. Upon this invasion (Alexander’s) 
they defended the cities that hired them with great 
vigour ...” (Lives, p. 21 1). There are grounds for be- 
lieving that the regular troops (Mauja) were recruited 
either from certain localities (Kautilya tr., p. 173 speaks 
of Ayudluya villages) or by voluntary enlistment from the 
fighting classes and tribes, notably Ksatriyas. The question 
whether there was conscription or not is difficult to answer. 

The author of the Arthasastra speaks of an officer 
called Ayudhagaradhyaksa or superintendent of Armoury 
whose duty it was to collect all sorts of weapons, defensive 
and destructive engines of war and keep them in proper 
condition. “The superintendent”, writes Kautilya, “shall 
employ experienced workmen of tried ability to manufac- 
ture in given time and for fixed wages, wheels, nails, 
armour ‘and other accessory instruments for use in battles, 
in the construction and defence of forts or in destroying 
cities and strongholds of enemies . 65 He mentions two 
kinds of machines — immovable and movable. The immova- 
bles include Sarvatobhadra, Jamadognya, etc. etc; the 
movables include Pancalik^t, Devadanda, Musala, Trsula, 
Cakra, etc. 66 

10. Units of the Army : Infantry 

A squad of ten under the leadership of an officer called 
Padika formed the smallest unit of the army. “For every 
ten members of the constituents of the army, there must 
be one commander, called Padika, ten Padikas under a 
senapati; tjen senapatis under a Nayaka (leader). 67 The 

65 Kaut. tr. Bk. II. Chap. XVIII. 

66 Ibid, pp. 120 — 121. 

67 Ibid , p. 436. 



9 2 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


above gradation seeriis to resemble closely Sivaji’s infantry, 
which was carefully divided into regiments, brigades and 
divisions. The smallest unit consisted of 9 foot soldiers 
gnd the officer commanding it was known as the Naik. The 
Hatfeldac of the infantry had five such units under him. 
Over two or three Haveldars was placed a Jamladar. The 
officer commanding 10 jumlas was called Hazari, and the 
Sarnabat, who had 10 Hazaris under him, was the supreme 
military and civil head of the state next to the king. 88 


1 1 . Diplomacy and Strategy 

In throwing fresh light on diplomacy, military espionage, 
secret war (Kutayuddha) and new conceptions of strategy, 
viz. well considered plans, conditions and time of marching 
(yana) and methods of besieging an enemy fortress, the 
Arthasastra surpasses all writers. Thus, its author 
says, “The arrow shot by an archer may not kill a 
singleman, but skilful intrigue pursued by wise men can 
kill even those who are in the womb.” 69 In the chapter 
on Kantaka-Sodhana Kautilya speaks of secret punishment 
thus: “The king. ..may inflict punishment on those 

courtiers or confederacy of chiefs who are dangerous to the 
safety of the kingdom and who cannot be put down in 
open daylight.” ( 13 k. V. Chap, I., p.287). There was an 
elaborate arrangement for the employment of spies ( caras ) 
in the Kautilyan state. 70 In Book XII, Chapter IV of the 
Arthasastra we have detailed regulations for secret agents 
(gudha purusa). Spies in various disguises marched ahead 


68 Sen. Military system of the Marathas, p. 15. 

69 Kaut. tr. Bk. X. Chap, 6. 

70 Ibid., Bk. I. Chapters XI & XII. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


93 


of the army gathering information and spreading division 
among’ the enemy troops wherever possible. 70 * Kautilya’s 
espionage system was well known for its efficiency, severity 
and Machiavellian approach. We shall not be wrong if we^ 
repeat the words of one writer. ‘In the work of espionage 
all methods were admissible, spying, lying, bribing, poison- 
ing, women’s wiles and the assassin’s knife. 7 ! For diplo- 
matic service the appointment of ambassadors was the jrule. 
The duties of an envoy were thus prescribed : “The 
envoy shall make friendship with the enemy’s officers 
such as those in charge of wild tracts, of boundaries, of 
cities and of country parts. He shall also contrast the 
military stations, sinews of war and strongholds of the 
enemy with those of his own master. He shall ascertain 
the size and area of forts and of the state, as well as 
strongholds of precious things and assailable and unassailable 
points . 72 Dr. Chakravarty’s” comment on diplomatic 
espionage is very suggestive. — “An ambassador in ancient 
India, like his modern prototype,” he says, “was nothing 
more than an honourable spy acting under the protection 

of customary laws.” Such is also the description of 

• 

70a The use of signs and cypher writing and carriar pigeons (Bk. 
XII Chap. I) formed part of military espionage. The following re- 
gulation of Kautilya (S. Sastry’s tr., p. 23) proves the comprehen- 
siveness of his espionage system: — ‘Merchant, spies inside forts, 
saints and ascetics in the suburbs of forts, the cultivator and the 
recluse in country parts, herdsmen in the boundaries of the country, 
in forest forest-dwellers, sramanas and chiefs of wild tribes, shall be 
stationed to ascertain the movements of enemies.’ 

71 AWAI p. 71. 

72 Nant. tr., p. 32. 

73 AWAI.p, 71. 



94 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


an ambassador according to the Agni Parana (241 "i 1-13) 
and the Yukti kalpataru, a late work on Niti * Sdstra . 
(V. 71, p. 10,) 

12. Forts 

All Arthasastra and Nlcisastra writers 73 * deal with forts. 
Kautilya’s conception of fortification is wonderful. His 
“fortified capital” (Sthaniya) may be compared to the 
famous description of Pataliputra by Megasthenes as quoted 
in Arrian. Durga (frontier fort) was specially guarded and 
was placed in charge of an officer called Antapdla. “The 
haven of the king and his army”, he writes, “is a strong 
fort.” He classifies forts as under: 74 

(a) Parvata (hill fort). 

(b) Audaka (water fort). 

(c) Dhanavana (desert fort), 

(d) Banadurga (forest fort). 

Regarding the relative importance of the forts enumera- 
ted above, he says, — ‘Of forts such a fort on the plain, in the 
centre of a river and on a mountain, that which is mention- 

73a For Sukra’s classification of fortresses see B. K. Sarkar’s tr. 
p. 214. “One who has forts with troops can survey the whole 
earth, but to have every other kind of forts except those with 
troops is tantamount to imprisonment.” Ibid., p. 215. Other 
classifications appear in Manasollasa X. 90-91. Ni'tivakyamrta pp. 
79 — 80. ‘It is in the fort that the treasury and the army arc 
solely kept, and it is from the fort that secrets war (intrigue), 
control over one’s partisans, the upkeep of the army,' the reception 
of allies and the driving out of enemies and of wild tribes are 
successfully practised, Kaut. tr. p. 379. 

74 Kaut. tr. Bk. II. Chap. Ill, pp. 54 — 55. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


95 


ed later is of more advantage than the one previously 
mentioned. 7 * Rules for construction of forts ana instruc- 
tions for the erection of fortified capital (sthaniya) in times 
of danger (Kaut. tr, p.55) go to prove Kautilya’s military 
genius. “The Indian forts”, says Dr. Thomas, “lyerc 
systematically designed with ditches, ramparts, battlements, 
coveredways, porticullises, and water gates, and in the assault 
the arts of mining, countermining, floodingmines # werc 
employed no less than the devices of diplomacy. In short, 
the Indians possessed the art of War™ 

13. Red Cross 

A most pleasing feature of Kautiliyan warfare was the 
existence of the Red Cross Service. Physicians and 
surgeons accompanied by assistants and female nurses 
formed part of the army. These medical men were provid- 
ed with medicines and surgical instruments. 77 They were 
to stand behind encouraging the fighting men. 

14. Military Department 

The Arthasastra acquaints us with the different types 
of spies to be employed, the kinds of battles to be fought 78 
the various categories of battle-arrays 70 to be arranged, the 
time of march to be in view, 80 and the carrying on of the 
inter-state relations to be done for the adoption of six-fold 
policy in endless details. 81 It has laid stress on the holding 

75 Kaut. tr. p. 354. 

76 CHI Vol. I. p. 490. 

77 Kaut. tr. p. 427; Mabht. Udyoga. Chap 151 — 197. 

78 Ibid., pp. 433 — 37. 79 Ibid., p. 433k 

8° ” pp. 319, 323, 327 and 416. 

81 ” pp. 317 — 20, 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


96 


of military exercises 83 and maintenance of discipline in the 
army. 8a<l That the military organisation of the first 
Magadhan Empire was on a footing of efficiency and 
eminently fitted for resisting both internal and external 
aggression is evident from the well-balanced army regula- 
tions and from the system of paying adequate salaries 83 to 
arid bestowing honours and rewards on, the army establish- 
ment. The following is a list of officers and their salaries 
per year as prepared from Book V, Chapter III, Shyama 
Sastri’s tr. pp. 297-98 : 


Officer 

1. Commander-in-Chief (Senapati) 

2. Nayaka (Captain) 

3. Officers in charge of Elephants 
Horses, Chariots and Infantry 
and heads of guilds (Srenl- 
mukhya) 

4. Superintendents (Adhyaksas) of 
Infantry, Cavarly, Chariots and 
Elephants 


Salary per annum 

48,000 panas 8 -“ 
12,000 ,, 


8,000 


4,000 


82 Ibid., Bk. II, Chap*. XXX and XXXII, 134. 

82a The N'l'tiprakSsi'ka prescribes punishment to soldiers for neg- 
lect of duties and treachery. Thus, “A king should in time of 
war put to death those men who oppose his orders, the soldiers 
who run away and do not keep their weapons, avaricious generals 
who fight treacherously, who fight against each other, who do not 
face the enemy, etc (The Nitiprakasika, VI, I. 60 — 63}. 

83 Bk. V. Chap. III. The pay of trained foot soldiers (Silpa- 
vantah Padatah) was 500 panas per annum. 

83a A silver pana is equivalent to about a shilling according to 
Dr. Smith (EHI, p. 149k 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 97 


5.. The Physician of the army. 

Chariot drivers (Rathika) horse 

and elephant trainers 

2,000 panas 

6. Superintendent of Armoury 

(AyudhSgSradhayaksa) 

1 ,000 „ 

7. Trained soldiers or privates 83b 

500 „ 

8. Trumpet-blowers (Turyakara) 

500 „ 

9. The Elephant driver 

500 to 1 ,000 
panas according 
to efficiency. 

10. Stationary spies (Samsthah) 

1,000 panas 

11. Wandering spies (Samcarah) 

500 „ 

12. Servants leading the spies 

250 „ 


or in proportion 
to the work done. 


WaS the Senapati, heading the list of military officers, 
a member of the Council of Ministers (Mantri-Parisad) 
whenever it existed? His position in relation to the 
Council of Ministers (it existed at least in the Maurya and 
Sunga periods) has given rise to controversy among ancient 
Indian writers on political science. Some say that the Sena- 
pati or the Commander-in-chief was a member of the said 
Council, while others believe that hewas not a member of the 
“Cabinet”, being simply a departmental head, — a Superin- 
tendent of the army working under a minister. 8 - 0 Some- 

83b C/o Sukfa — “Full pay is to be granted to those who are 
trained soldiers; half pay is to be given to those who are under 
military training. Chap. . II, lines 86 — 87. 

83c It tftay be recalled that according to the Sariihita of the 
Yayurveda and the Brahmana literature the commander-in-chief 
(Sanani) was included in the Vedic Age in the Council of ratnins 
(Jewels) or high functionaries. 


msai — 7 



$6 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

times a distinction is drawn between Mantrinah (Councillors 
or Ministers) and Amatyas or ministerial officers. ’ Then 
again, Kautilya (Arth. Sastra Bk. V. 8) points out that the 
mantrins were to be selected from among amatyas. Sir 
Pcrcival Griffiths (The British Impact on India, p. 116) 
chooses to compare the Senapati with one of the permanent 
under-Secretaries of State in the British Civil Service. 
Anyway, the Council of Ministers was a very important 
organ of the body politic in ancient India, and the name 
of ministers in charge of war and military department 
varied from period to period. (Vide Altekar, State & 
Govt, in A. I., p. 1 1 a) 

The provision for the same pay to military officers 8311 as 
enjoyed by civil servants of the same status with a view 
to keep them above temptation is sure proof of the im- 
portance attached by the state to the Defence Department. 
Kautilya enjoins the king to fix under one-fourth of the 
total revenue the charges of maintaining his servants. 84 
We have already seen that certain villages supplied contin- 
gents to the army (Ayudhlya). Some would find in them 
the germs of a military tenure which was so common 
among the Rajputs in the early medieval period. With 
regard to additional relief given to persons joining the 
fighting forces, and the* rules governing transfer of . officers 
the following lines may be quoted : 

83d Tlie Commander-in-Chief, for example, was paid the same- 
emolument as the sacrificial priest (rtvig), the purohita, the heir- 
apparent and the minister. 

84 Kaut. bk. V. Chap, III, p. 297: It is interesting to note 
in this connection that Sukra, while giving the item's of state ex- 
penditure, recommends 50% of the revenue for the fighting forces 
(halamj) and only for the civil administration (adhikatrnah). 

Sukra. Chap I. L. 316 — 17. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


99 


■ pThe sons and wives of those who die while on duty 
sliall get subsistence and wages. Infants, aged persons 
or deceased persons related to the deceased servants, 
shall be shown favour... 

There shall be no transference of officers employed 
to guard the royal buildings, forts and countryparts. 
The chief officers employed to superintend the above 
places shall be many, and shall permanently hold the 
same office. ” S5 

Apart from these essential details about military matters, 
we have the instructions for war music, words of encourage- 
ment on battlefields, rules for conduct of battles, and what 
is more important, the principles of occupation of conquered 
territories. Referring to those wise maxims given by 
Kautilya in Book VII, Chap. X, Dr. S. C. Sarkat 86 
observed, — “It will be noticed from the citation of one 
chapter that he (Kautilya) was not the ‘blood and iron’, 
Machiavellian, cruel and unscrupulous dark politician that 
the average text-book writer makes him to be; he combines 
in him the democracy of a Stalin, the efficiency of a 
Hitler, the idealism of a* Wilson, the imperialism of a 
Churchill and the patriotism* of a Chiang.” Canakya’s 
diplomacy and war have acquired an offensive meaning. 
The Maurya premier was, after all, a believer in the doctrine 
of a strong, centralised monarchy. He recommends war not 
as an end in itself, but a means to an end. Nothing should 
stand in the way of India’s political union under one flag 
and one government. In order to enjoy the earth unopposed 
the king should be well educated, well disciplined and 
devoted torfhe government of his subjects (Artha S. p. io) 

85 TCaut. bk. V, Chap. III. pp. 299 and 298. 

86 J. B..R. S. Part III, Sept. 1945, p. 148. 



IOO 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Whether the various rules, methods, principles -and 
devices as described by Kautilya were made use of, and if so, 
how and when, we have no definite evidence to illustrate. 
Then again, there is probably some force in the arguments 
sometimes advanced that the Arthasastra, Dharmasastra and 
Dharmasutra writers like Kautilya, Brhaspati and Baudhayana 
deal more with theories’ than with the actual statecraft. But 
out of the maze of these politico-military matters, so system- 
atically and clearly inserted in Kautilya’s work, two thitigs 
become transparent, — first, the empire under the Nanda 
and Maurya Kings was not only vast in extent, it was well 
governed and well defended. Under the Mauryas its 
boundaries kept on increasing, and for two full centuries 
there was no disquieting pressure from outside; the general 
prosperity of the empire told of the internal peace and 
security it enjoyed; and secondly, the writer of the Artha- 
sastra to whom we are indebted for many valuable pieces of 
information must have been intimately associated with a 
prosperous and extensive empire and a knowledge of its inns 
and outs had probably given him opportunities to gather 
much personal experience and, to compile his monumental 
work . 87 All was not, therefore, abstract thinking; the 
author had some concrete cases to work upon and generalise. 

A word about the biggest military offensive of the 
Maurya period may be profitably added here. Following 


8 7 Dr. R. G. Basaka (Kaut. Beng. tr. introduction, p. 27) 
seems to be in favour of the view that the author of the Artha- 
fastra was Kautilya alias Visnugupta and that he flourished in the 
4th century B. C. M. H. Gopal in his Mauryan Public Finance 
(p. 14) suggests that the Arthalastra represents actual and not ideal 
conditions of state and administration. 



NATIONAL DEFENCE IN PRACTICE 


IOI 


the Example of his warlike predecessors, Asoka, who was to 
eschew all aggresive warfare and abandon mundane glory 
from the thirteenth year of his reign, waged a terrible war. 
The earliest recorded political event of his reign was the 
conquest of Kalinga 87a on the coast of the Bay of Beng'al. 
There, as the inscription 88 states, “150,000 were carried 
away (as captives), 100,000 were slain and many times as 
many died.” “These are” says Dr. D. R. Bhandarkar, 
“appalling figures for a tiny district like Kalinga and 
indicate the extreme horrors of a war even in that ancient 
period when the weapons of destruction were not so diaboli- 
cal and deadly as now. 89 A warlike people with military 
forces at their command could ill-afford to bear the chains 
of slavery. They became again independent in the first 
century B. C. The Nemesis soon came and “Magadha 
learnt to* her cost, what powerful Kalinga meant in the time 
of Kharvela”, the Cheta or Chedi King of Orissa. 

In conclusion, it is necessary to point out certain general 
characteristics of the military system of the Age of 

Alexander and of the Mauryas. They appear in brief to be 
the following : * 

(a) Large-scale employment of cavalry in Indian 

warfares as attested by classical writers. 

(b) Importance of the elephant corps in certain 

theatres of wars to cause havoc in enemy’s 

ranks as the common instrument or Mauryan 
strategy. 

87a For the military strength of the Calingae see Pliny (I. A. 
1887, p. 38^. It is Kie-Jing-Kia of Hiuen Tsang and has been 
identified by Cunningham (Ant. Geography of India p. 591) with 
Rijamahendri on the Godavari river. 

88 Rock Edict No. XIII 

89 Aioka, p. 23 



102 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


(c) Insignificance of the infantry in military -opera- 
tions when compared to its size and actual 
performance. 

(d) Growth of military architecture all over Northern 
India and better defence of cities with their 
artificial fortifications and occasional resort to 
siege warfare. 

(e) Personal valour of Indian kings as leaders of the 
army, — a matter of supreme importance. 

(f) Plethora of military matters in Kautilya’s 
Arthasastra. 

(g) No mention of conscription. 



CHAPTER IV 


MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 
OF THE HINDUS 

FROM THE FALL OF THE MAURYAS TO THE END 
OF THE SECOND MAGADHAN EMPIRE 

(c. 185 B. C.—550 A. D.) 

1. Foreign Invasions and Military achievements 

A few words are needed by way of introduction to 
explain briefly at the outset the nature of defence that 
Hindu Kingdoms organised and of military endeavours made 
in the* north and south after the collapse of the mighty 
empire of the Mauryas, before we consider the military 
system of the Second Magadhan empire, i.e. the Gupta 
Empire. As soon as the strong arm of Asoka was 
withdrawn, the forces of disruption set in 1 2 and the Maurya 
empire rapidly declined, fn Central and Eastern India the 
Mauryas were suCceded by the Sungas (c. ig5-ii2B.C.) 
and the Kanvas (c. 112-78 B.C}. In the Western and 
North-Western part the Maurya princes first asserted their 
independence and then fell a victim to foreign aggression. 3 
A fairly big empire sprang into existence in the Deccan. 

1 The adoption of the policy of Dharmavijaya in place of 
Digvijaya (C-/o Rock Edict No. IV) must have impaired the 
military efficiency of the Maurya empire under Aioka’s successors 
allowing dependent states to throw off the yoke and foreigners to 
pour in. 

2 Vide PHAl 5th Ed. Suibhagasena and Maurya disruption, 

pp. 361-362/ 



104 Military system in ancient india 

It was the Satavahana Empire founded by one Simuka jn' the 
first century before Christ. 3 From the fall of the Maurya 
power to the rise of the Kusanas, Northwest India became 
the battle-ground for foreign powers. The Bactrians, the 
Partisans and the Sakas played their part as conquerors and 
rulers. These foreigners established their strong rule in 
Afghanistan, the Punjab and Western India generally. 
Northern India was a bundle of petty independent or 
semi-independent states. There was no central authority, — 
no organised defence. But individual kings were not 
militarily weak. If some of the Buddhist Jatakas are to be 
assigned to this period of confusion and weakness, it is 
possible to get some information about the composition of 
the army of Indian Kings. The Vessantara Jataka 4 says 
that King Sanjaya had an army of 60,000 warriors. It 
consisted of horses, chariots, soldiers and elephants, the 
number of elephants being 14,000, a surprisingly huge 
number not to be met with in the writings of classical 
authors. The Mahaunmagga Jataka 5 refers to an army of 
60,000 soldiers. The same work tells us that the army 
was composed of thirty and nine • thousand warriors. 6 The 
Buddhist writer Asvaghosa, ’who flourished in the first 
century A.D. and was a t contemporary of Kaniska, prescri- 
bes in his ‘Sundarananda Kavya’ an elaborate curriculum of 
study for the prince which includes among other things, the 
use of the lances, archery, and rules of battle-array and 
strategy. 

3 The chronology adopted by Dr. H.C. Ray Chaudhuri (PHAI 
5th Ed. p. 408) has been accepted here. While discussing the 
chronology of the Satavahana Kings Purushottam Lai Bhargava 
places Simuka between 4 6 and 23 B.C. vide 1HQ. Dec. 1950. 

4 Jat. tr. Vol. VI, p. 298, 

5 Jat, tr. Vol. VI, pp. 223-24. 


6 Jat. tr, Vofc Vh p- 231. 



, MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE I05 

2.. Spirit of Resistance in the North 

The foreign tribes which had settled in the north-west 
and west in post-Maurya times made many unsuccessful 
attempts to push their conquests far into the country. It iyas 
one long chapter of fierce warfare between the foreigners 
stationed in India and the Indian princes, — the Sungas of 
Pataliputra fighting with the Bactrian Greeks and the 
Satavahanas of the Deccan exchanging their blows with the 
Saka satraps of Western India. It was really a period of 
invasion and of forcible intrusions from without and of 
general insurrection within,-— a clear indication of India’s 
setback from the political and military points of view. 
Nevertheless, in the history of ancient India, the four 
hundred years that elapsed between the decline of the 
Maurya power and the reappearance of Hindu imperialism 
under the Guptas were scarcely a period which might be 
counted as absolutely ineffective and inglorious. A revival 
of her military power was in sight. A question may be 
asked here — Was the Sunga-Kanva military system com- 
pletely out of gear? The miljtary records of the Sungas, how- 
ever, tell a different tale. From our point of view the most 
important political event of Pusyamitra’s reign was the Greek 
or Yavana invasion from the northwest referred to by 
Patanjali in his Mahabhasya and Kalidasa in his Malavika- 
gnimitram. The Yavanas, it is stated, came as far down 
as Madhyamika (Nagari in Chitor) and Sakcta (Ajodhya), 
and these two cities were virtually in a state of siege.? The 
Greek invasion led by the Bactrian King Demetrios,® 


7 I. A. 1872, p. 300. (Sir R. G. Bhandarkar’s article on the 
date of Patanjali). 

8 For the identification of the Greek (Yavana) invader see 
Dr. Smith EHR p. an. Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri PHAI, p. 267 



106 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

son of Euthydemos, was successfully repulsed by Vasum'itra, 
a Sunga prince. The battle was fought on the southern 
bank of the river Sindhu (in Central India). The hurling 
back of the Yavana attack was no mean achievement on the 
part of the Sunga prince. Unfortunately, we have no 
knowledge of the respective strength of the armies and of 
the tactics that decided the issue, but the defeat itself shows 
that • the military renown of the Maurya times was not a 
past memory. The territories of the Suhgas 9 were less 
extensive, their defence problem was, therefore, not as 
difficult as that of the Mauryas. They probably took care 
to guard their frontier foriresses by placing them under 
able officers. One Vlrasena was placed, as Kalidasa 10 says, 
in charge of a frontier fortress on the bank of the Narmada. 
Demetrios’ invasion was the last of the series of Greek 
invasions which had begun with Alexander. Antidchus III 
of Syria invaded India in about 206 B.C. 11 Polybius refers 
to a King called Sophagasenus (Subhagasena), probably a 
successor of Vlrasena, an independent ruler of Kasmlra after 
Asoka’s death. The passage quoted below will explain the 
nature and result* of Antioch'us Ill’s invasion of India’s 
borderland and renewal of* his friendship with an Indian 
King ; . 

“He (Antiochus the Great) crossed the Caucasus 
and descended into India, renewed friendship with 
Sophagasenas, the King of the Indians, received more 
elephants, until he had 150 altogether, and having 


and the Journal of the Ganganathi Jha Research' Institute Vol. 
IV, Pt. I, Nov. 1940. 

9 Vide Dr. B. C. Sen's article in the Proceedings of the Indian 
History Congress, 1949, p. 62. 

10 Malavikagnimitram, Act. I. 

1 x Polybius XI, 34. 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE VfJ 


once more provisioned his troops, set out again persona- 
lly with his arm, leaving to Androsthenes of Cyzicus, 
the duty of taking home the treasure which the King 
had agreed to hand over to him.” 

The going back of the Syrian King after the renewal 
of friendship with the Indian ruler suggests that the wishes 
of the Seleucids were not fulfilled. The Kingdom of 
Kasmira might have cried a halt to the march of the Syrian 
monarch. Although the Maurya Empire had already begun 
to break up, the Indian defences were not completely broken 
through until the days of Demetrios and Menander who 
exercised control over Indian territories for sometime . 12 

T rans-V indhyan Defence 

Turning now to the trans-Vindyan India we find the 
Satavahana Empire (c. ist Cent. B.C. to 2nd Cent. A.D.) 
rise to the full height of a strong military power in the 
Deccan. The greatest King of the dynasty was Satakarni I. 
He married Naganika, the daughter of the Marathi Chief, 
conquered Eastern Malwa* and styled . himself “Daksina- 
pathapati .” 13 The celebration of Asvamedha sacrifice by 
him indicates his position as the t paramount-sovereign of 
South India, 1 * a position attained later on by Samudragupta 
and Candragupta II Vikramaditya in the North. Surrounded 
as the Satavahanas were by hostile peoples, they had to 
maintain considerable forces to retain their supremacy. 
They are believed to have introduced the system of military 


12 For tiie extent of their Indian conquests as described by 
Apollodorus of Artemita and as determined by the diffusion of 
Menander’s coins, see PHAI, 5th Ed, pp. 380 81. 

13 Liiders’ List. No. 1112. 

14 Ibid, No x 1 12 (Nanaghat Cave Inscription). 



Io8 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

governors (strategos), a system apparently borrowed ’ from 
the Sakas. They also appointed district officers bearing the 
title of Senapati. 15 They were "reputed to possess military 
force second only to that at the command of the king of the 
Prasii, Candragupta Maurya. The Andhra territory included 
thirty walled towns, besides numerous villages, and the 
army consisted of 100,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry and 
1,000 elephants”. 16 There were occasional conflicts between 
the Satavahana kings and the foreign tribes that had formed 
settlements in Western and Southwestern India, and it is 
no exaggeration to say that the period between the second 
century B.C. and the second century A.D. was really the 
time of chronic rivalry between the indigenous and foreign 
governments for supremacy over the Deccan and the 
Western region. The result was an alternate swing of 
success and failure. Twice in this period, — once towards 
the end of the first century B.C. and again in the beginning 
of the second century A.D., the Satavahana power seems to 
have been eclipsed by a dynasty called the Ksaharata or 
Ksatrapa. After SatakarnI I they had to yield important 
possessions to the 'Scythians. 17 Nahapana, who ruled over 
a considerable portion of Maharastra, was the most notable 
ruler of the Ksaharata family. Epigraphic record would 
have us believe that in about 128 A.D. the dynasty was 
overthrown by Gautamiputra Satakarni who has been des- 

15 AHI, p.131. 

16 EHI, 4th Ed, pp. 217-18. Some writers are inclined to believe 
that the Satavahanas maintained a fleet of their own. The coins 
belonging to the reign of Pulamayi and Yajnalri bear ( the figure 
of a two masted sailing ship (Rapson : Catalogue of Indian 
Coins, p. 22). 

17 The cave inscription of Nahapana’s son-in-law Ushavadatta 
proves the inclusion of some territories in many places within 
pJahapana’s political influence (See Ep. Ind., Vol. VIII). 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE I09 

cribed as the “Saka-Yavana-Palhava-nisudana” and as the 
“restorer of the glory of Saravahana family.’* 18 The succes- 
sors of Gautamiputra carried on warfare with those who 
came to wield power after Nahapana in the Western 

Deccan. Rudradamana I of the line of Castana . of 

• * • 

UjjanI twice defeated, as the Junagadh inscription 1 ® says, 
Satakarnl, the Lord of the Deccan, although there was no 
incorporation of his territories. According to Sir R, G. 
Bhandarkar 20 the lord of Daksinnapatha worsted by Rudra- 
damana was YajnasrT Satakatni. From the political events 
narrated above, we may draw the conclusion that it was 
due to the fighting capacity, heroism, love of country of the 
Satavahana rulers and their unflagging zeal to rid the land 
of foreigners that the Deccan was saved from being 
completely scythianised in the first stage of the Satavahana 
empire-building. The fall of the Satavahana Empire after 
three hundred years of existence may, in all probability, be 
attributed rather to internal aggression and the rise of a 
number of new dynasties in the Upper Deccan and the Far 
South than to any inherent weakness in its military system. 
Their political achievement, .which are so, varied and glorious 
may have been the outcome, of their excellent military 
system. 


3. W ar-matters in Indian Coins and Sculptures 

We pass on now to the consideration of the military 
pursuits of the Indians in the period under review by a 
brief examination of their coins and sculptures. In the 
coins of the Greek, Scythian and Parthian invaders their 


18 Ep. Ind., Vol. VIII, p. 60 f£. 

19 Ep. ind., Voi, yin, p. 42 fli. 

ao Early History of the Dekkan, p. 50. 



no 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


kings wear coat of mail in chain armour. Helmets .with 
straight swords and lances are found. Some of the kings 
again ride on horses or elephants. Spears, clubs, and other 
weapons of war also find place . 21 In Alexander’s Porus 
Me.dal, for example, Porus rides on an elephant, hurl? a 
javelin at his pursuer on horseback, who is cither Taxiles 
or Alexander himself. The ‘Medal’ substantiates that 
elephant and horse were used in war, and javelin was 
commonly used in battles. 

Indian sculptures of the second and first centuries B.C. 
are also helpful to some extent. In the Bharhut (old Nagod 
state, Madhya Bharata) Stupa are found boats, chariots 
drawn by horses, carriages drawn by bullocks, many musical 
instruments, the old Indian sword and also the representa- 
tion of a procession of foot soldiers . 22 In stupa No I at 
Sanchi, for example, are seen soldiers attacking tlje enemy 
down with armours and stone, — a representation of what 
is called “war of relics”. In the south torana (back) and 
the west torana (back) at Sanchi we find the “war of the 
relics” beautifully sculptured . 23 Referring to the former 
Sir John Marshall says, — “This was the war which the chief 
of seven other clans waged ■ against the Mallas of Kusinara 
for the possession of the Buddha’s relics. In the centre of 
the architrave, the siege of Kusinara is in progress, to right 
and left the victorious chiefs are departing in chariots and 
on elephants with the relics borne on the head of the 
latter”. In a bas-relief of the same Stupa we have a re- 
presentation of city walls , 24 and as Prof. Rhys Davids 
points out, “it is very probable that in earlier times the 

21 CHI. I., p. 389. pi. VII. 

22 Sir Alexander Cunningham. The Stupa o£ Bharhut 
pi XXXII. 

23 Sir John Marshall — A gnidc to Sanchi pi. Nos. IV & V. 

24 Ibid, pi. Nos. XXVI & XXVII. 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 


III 


fortifications were often similar in kind”. 35 The equipment 
of the’ Indian infantry appears in the bas-reliefs both at 
Sanchi and Bharhut. Thus the time-honoured Caturanga 
bala has been given full representation in Indian .coins and 
sculptures. 


4. Gupta Military System 

The political history of a country is inseparable from 
its military chronicle. For nearly three centuries preceding 
the foundation of the second Magadhan Empire (c. 320 
A.D.) Northern India was practically dominated by the 
Kusanas, — a warlike central Asian tribe that had set up an 
extensive empire extending from Afghanistan to as far east 
as Mathura, and possibly Bihar, Gangetic delta and Orissa. 36 
The establishment of an empire by aliens in Northern 
India which was in a sense more stable and widespread than 
that of the Yonas (Greeks) was an indication of the silent 
revolution in the military system through which the country 
had been passing since the age of the Mauryas. The 
Scythian rulers of North-Western and Western India 
became thoroughly acquainted with the Indian system of 
administration and evolved an administrative frame-work, 
civil and military, on the lines of the Mauryas and of their 
own institutions. We hear of a number of military officers 
of the Sakas and Kusanas bearing the titles of Mahasena- 
pati, 37 Dandanayaka, 38 and subordinate officers like 


25 Buddhist India (Indian Ed.) p 47. 

26 Eastern expansion of the Kusana Empire by Adris Banerjee, 
IHQ. Deer 1951. 

27 Ltiders’ Inscription Nos. 1124 & 1146. 

28 Ibid, Nos. 1328. 



1 12 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Senagopas Gaulmikas 39 (Captains), Araksadhikttas 30 
(guards), Asvavarakas 31 (troopers), Bhatamanusyas , 33 etc. 
Dr. H. C. Raychaudhuri 83 finds close correspondence 
between the first two military officials of the Scythian period 
and the Senapati and Nayaka of Kautilya’s Arthasastra . 34 
The Monikiyala inscription of Kaniska refers to Lala, the 
Dandanayaka of the family of Gusana . 35 Military officers 
bearing the Indian title of Mahasenapati existed along with 
Strategos (general or governor). As in the time of Kautilya 
and the Mahabharata, the employment of spies, specially 
“Sathchaihtakas”, in the Scythian period was probably a 
common feature . 33 

Candragupta I, the first independent ruler of the Gupta 
dynasty of Magadha, assumed the title of Maharajadhiraja.” 
The kingdom he brought into existence was destined to 
grow in all directions. The conquests made by his suc- 
cessors like Samudragupta and Candragupta II Vikramaditya 
enlarged and consolidated it. The Empire, when at the 
height of its glory, roughly extended from the Eastern to 
the Western Sea 38 from the Himalayas in the North to the 


29 Ibid, No. 1200. 

30 Ibid, No. 1200. 

31 Ibid, Nos. 381, 728. 

32 Ibid, No. 1200. 

33 PHAI, p. 520. 

34 Arth. Bk. X. Chapters 1, 2 & 5. 

35 N. G Majumdar’s List of Kharosthi Inscriptions. No. 36. 

36 PHAI, p. 526. 

37 CII.Vol. Ill, p. 6ff. 

30 Candragupta II’s territories include Surastira (Kathiawar) 
after the fall of the Saka power. North Bengal (PunUrayardhana- 
bhukti) formed part of the Gupta Empire. A recently discovered 
epigraph proves the inclusion of Kalinga being ruled in 569 A.D. 
by Prithivivigraha, the Gupta viceroy. Dr. D. C. Sarkar, however, 
holds a contrary view. IHQ March, 1950, 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE II3 

Narmada in the South. How this vast empire was defen- 
ded is the next question that we must try to answer. The 
military system of the Guptas was substantially the same as 
that of the Mauryas; but there was possibly a certain loose- 
ness of the organisation. Samudragupta, being a typical 
Dharmavijayl, granted some amount of autonomy to con- 
quered territories subject to payment of tribute and allegiance 
to the Gupta sovereign as their overlord. He thus created 
a band of feudatories. The trend of Hindu politics in the 
3rd and 4th centuries was such that it favoured distinct 
feudal tendencies and provincial separatism. 

The centralisation of the Mauryas was conspicuous by 
its absence and the empire built in the 4th century con- 
tained within itself a number of Samanta princes paying 
tribute to the Gupta overlord and supplying contingents 
to the imperial forces. With regard to the administration 
of Bengal Dr. Majumdar 39 observes, — “The Gupta em- 
perors did not directly administer the whole territory which 
was formally included within the empire. There were 
feudal chiefs, referred to as Mahasamanta who assumed the 
title of ‘Maharaja.’ The «ame process might have been 
extended to other units of the* empire. Matrvisnu of the 
Eran Stone pillar inscription of Budhagupta (CII. 89) is 
looked upon as a Gupta feudatory. A seal matrix cut in the 
rock of Rohtasgarh (CII. 284), refers to Sri-mahasamanta 
Sasanka. His identification with Sasanka, King or Gauda 
is not altogether impossible. 4 ? 

Samudragupta was the ablest member of the Gupta 
ruling house. He seriously attempted to bring the whole 
of India under his political control but, as already stated, 


39 HB. Vol. I, p. 264. 

40 Ibid, Vol. I, p. 59. 

msai — 8 



114 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

the Hindu policy was then running a different course and 
Samudragupta, inspite of his wide conquests, was unable, it 
may be presumed, to bring all India under one uniform 
system and had to follow a middle course between a strict 
imperial control and full local autonomy. Such a system 
has always been a source of weakness and often a hindrance 
to, the formulation of a durable policy of national defence. 
All the Gupta emperors from Candragupta I to Skandagupta 
were skilled warriors instinct with imperial ambition. The 
empire under their direct control was well defended. For 
two centuries there was nothing to disturb the peace till 
troubles came from the Pusyamitras and the Hunas during 
Skanda’s rule (c. 455-467 A.D). Candragupta II (c. 380- 
413 A.D) augmented the empire by annexing Malwa, 
Gujcat and Kathiawar. A believer in Aryan institutions and 
Ksatriya glory, he was determined to free the country from 
the hated Scythians and proclaimed a ‘holywar’ against the 
Saka Satrap of Western India. Rudrasiriiha III was defeated 
and slain and Eastern and Western Malwa and Kathiawar 
were in Gupta hands. 41 If these conquests added valuable 
financial resources to the empire, they at the same time 
involved greater military responsibilities which Skandagupta 
had to be careful about. Troubles developed thick and 
fast with the incoming of the Hunas. The Gupta terri- 
tories, when the conquests of Candragupta II were over, 
looked very much like a pan-Indian empire. If the identi- 
fication of Candra of Meharauli inscription with Candra- 
gupta II is deemed acceptable, the Punjab had come within 
his sphere of influence. The imperial Guptas had, however, 


41 Silver coins of the Garuda type and some coins bearing the 
date 90 ( = 409 A.D) (Allan p. XCiv) Udayagiri inscription of 
Sabha, Oil, 35 Bana’s Harsacarita refers to the fall of the Saka 
power. 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE II5 

failed to exercise an effective control over the Punjab and 
and *the Kliybar pass. In this respect the Gupta military 
organisation was distinctly inferior to that of the Mauryas. 
Had they successfully guarded the North Western frontier, 
"the critical battle with the Hunas would have been fqught 
beyond the Indus ”. 42 

From inscriptions 43 we know that Skanda had to con- 
tend with two formidable foes — the Pusyamitras, — a local 
power in the Narbudda valley according to Dr. Majumdar, 
and the Hunas. The Gupta empire, already threatened with 
ruin by their depredations, was given a brief lease of life 
by Skanda as crown prince, who by subduing the Pusya- 
mitras and the Hunas, saved the empire. In his endeavour 
to beat back the invasion of the nomads, Skanda left no 
stone unturned and spent “a whole night on a couch that 
was the bare earth” to save his own realm and defeat the 
enemy. His anxiety as the ruler to guard the land of the Sau- 
rastras and his appointment of Parnadatta 44 as governor may 
be taken as his well-thought-out precautionary measure, and the 
emperor was at particular pains to appoint a series of Ward- 
ens of Marches to protect hjs dominion from future invasion. ,4S 
The Hunas who had already gained a foothold in Gandhara 
and the Punjab came again and again, and despite Skanda’s 
successful defence, the empire was* to collapse as the result 
of a second invasion after Skanda . 48 In the military annals 
of ancient India Skanda’s heroic resistance against the Hunas 

42 A new History, of the Indian people vol. VI, p. 3 

45 Bhitari and Junagadh inscriptions CIl, pp. 55 -56. 

44 Cl I. Vol. II, p, 63 

45 PHAI, p. 390 

46 According to MMK (Sec. 25) this Huna raid is to be dated 
fifty years later, and the Gupta empire broke up not under Skanda 
but in the reign of Budhagupta (496 A.D. coins) after 500 A.D. 
Jayaswal: Ifnperial History, p. 37. 



»6 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

reminds us of Puru’s bold stand against Alexander. Regar- 
ding Skanda’s war K.P. Jayaswal 47 appends an account from 
Chandragarbha paripriccha cited by Buston in his History 
of Buddhist Doctrines. It runs thus, — ‘‘King Mabendrasena , 48 
who was born in the country of KausambT, had a son with 
arms of irresistible might. After he had passed the age of 
i £> Mahendra's Kingdom was invaded upon by three foreign 
powers in concert — Yavanas, Palhikas and Sakunas who 
first fought amongst themselves. They took possession of 
Gandhara and countries to the North of the Ganges. The 
young son of Mahendrasena of weighty hands and other 
congenital military marks distinguishing his person, asked 
for permission to lead his father’s army. The enemy was 
numbered three hundred thousand men under the commands 
of the foreign kings, the chief of whom was the Yavana (or 
Yauna). The son of Mahendra put his army of two hun- 
dred thousand men divided into five hundred commanders, 
sons of ministers and other orthodox Hindus. With extra- 
ordinary quickness and a terrible drive he charged the enemy. 
In fury his veins on the forehead appeared like a visible 
mark (tilaka) and his body became steeled. The prince 
broke the enemy army and won the battle. On his return 
his father crowned him king, saying, “henceforth rule the 
kingdom,” and himself retired to religious life. For twelve 
years after this the new king fought these foreign enemies 
and ultimately captured and executed the three kings. 
After that he rules peacefully as the emperor of Jambu- 
dwipa.” “It seems” writes Jayaswal 49 “that this account 
is based on fact. The foreign army composed of three 
elements had penetrated up to the Ganges. It was the in- 

47 Imperial History, p. 46 

48 Identified with Kumaragupta I, 

49 Imperial History, p. 37. 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE I17 

dofaiiable will and skill of Skanda which won the battle. 
He led the flower of orthodox Hindu India, i. e. excluding 
Buddhists, younger sons of ministers and noblemen, and 
played, like his grandfather Candragupta II under Rama- 
gupta, a game of sheer courage, in making an impefuous 
charge against the enemy, numerically stronger. The 
battle was won, its fame spread in Hunnic Asia, in Che 
Mleccha countries, as Cakrapalita 401 puts it.” 

5. Feudal Element in the Gupta Army 

Samudragupta’s ‘digvijaya’ as described by Harisena 50 
shows that the Gupta emperor possessed an invincible army. 
It enabled Samudragupta, Candragupta II and the later 
imperial Guptas to launch upon a career of conquest to win 
fresh laurels. As in the past, their army consisted of in- 
fantry, cavalry, chariots, elephants and ships. 51 If the 
existence of a number of samanta princes or feudal chiefs 
bearing the titles of maharaja, mahasenapati, mahasamanta 
etc. mentioned in various Gupta epigraphs 52 is accepted, 
then it is reasonable to conclude that the Guptas in their 
wars and conquests and in their task of guarding the frontiers 
requisitioned the services of feudal^ militia. The days of 
standing armies were drawing to a close. 

6 . Horse-Archery 

Both in the early and later Vedic period it was the 
usual practice with warriors to shoot arrows from their 
chariots, an'd even in the age of Magadhan greatness we 


49a vide Bhitarl pillar inscription of Skanda. 5 o CII. 6f, 

51 Deo Baranaik inscription of ]ivitagupta 11 , CII. 217. 

52 CII. 289 



Il8 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

find men showering arrows riding on chariots and elephants. 
There is not a single reference before the Scythian period 
to horse-archers. The great epic throws out no hint about, 
and Alexander’s historians make no mention of, horsemen 
provided with bows. But in their coins king Azes I, Azisiles, 
Azes II anb Satrap Zeionises appear as horsemen provided 
with bows. 63 From certain types of coins of the Gupta 
times it is possible to conclude that horse archery was in 
use in the Gupta period. Candragupta II, Kumaragupta I 
and Prakasaditya are represented in coins as horse-archers. 64 
It might have been introduced by the Parthians, but its 
history is short-lived. On this point one recent writer 56 on 
ancient Indian art of war observes, — “The art of mounted 
archery did not strike roots in the Indian soil. Introduced 
by the Parthians and continuing for a time as a sickly exotic, 
it withered away shortly after the Gupta period. This is 
the impression that one gathers from a study of the records 
of post-Gupta India." But it goes without saying that the 
continued existence of mounted archers would have added 
a stimulating chapter to India’s military annals and given 
a new turn to India’s 
early mediaeval period 


struggle against foreign foes in the 


7. Military Officials 

Inscriptions seem point out clearly that in the Gupta 
period each office — civil and military had probably two 
grades, — the higher being distinguished by the addition 


53 Smith, Catalogue of the Coins in the Indian Museum, Cal. 
pp. 43-44 and Percy Gardiner. The coins of the Greek and Scythic 
kings of Bactria and India in the British Museum, PI. XX 3. XIX 4. 

54 Allan. Gupta Coins, PI. VIII, 11-19 ; PI. XXII, . 

55 P. C. Chakravarty. AWAI, p. 42 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 


1 19 


of prefix ‘Maha’. The following are some of the higher 
military officials mentioned in the inscriptions : 

1. 551 Mahadandanayaka (the great general). 56 

II. Mahasamdhi-vigrahika (the great minister of war 
and peace). 57 

III. Mahisenapati (the great general). 58 

IV. Mahabaladhikrta (the great commander — Field 
Marshal). 59 

V. Mahapilupati (the head of the elephant force). 60 

VI. Mahabaladhyaksa (the great general). 61 

VII. Mahasamanta (a feudatory title — the same as 
Mahasenapati). 62 

VIII. Bhatasvapati (lord of the army and cavalry). 63 

IX. • Baladhikarana (chief of the military forces or it 

may simply mean war office). 64 

X. Ranabhanda^fgaradhikarana (office of the chief Trea- 
surer of the war department). 65 

Apart from a host of military officials mentioned above, 
inscriptions contain names of yarious Gupta civil officials, 
such as the Amatya, the RajasthanTya, the Mahapratlhara, 
the Mahakumaramatya, the Upatika etc, but Dr. Ray 
Chaudhuri 66 seems to hold the view that “as in the case 
of most of the Pradhanas of Sivaji there was no clear-cut 
division between civil and military officials. The same pcr- 


55a Mahadandanayaltas probably 
to that of Mahasenapatis (ASI 1911-1 
56 CII. Ill, p. 6. 

58 CII°III, p. 289. 

59 Ep. Ind., p. 134, CII. No. 4a 
61 CII. III. 179. 

63 Basarh seals. 

65 Basarfi seals. 


occupied a position inferior 
2 , p. 52). 

47 CII. Ill, p. 6. 


60 Ep. Ind. XXV 52 ff. 
62 CII. III. 286 ff 
64 Basarh seals. 

66 PHAI, 5th Ed., p, 560. 



120 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


son could be Saihdhi-vigrahika, Kumaramatya 668, (cadet mi- 
nister) and Mahadandanayaka, great commandant of the 
army, and a mantrin could become a Mahabaladhikrta, 
chief commander of forces.” While the civil officials could 
hold military ranks and there was usually no separation 
between the two branches of the State service, (Prthivlsena 
was at first a minister of Kumaragupta I and subsequently 
became a Mahabaladhikrta), 67 the Gupta military depart- 
ment appears to be a strong and separate organisation and 
the Samdhivigrahika, as Majumdar and Altekar 88 say, served 
as the hyphen that joined the king and the military depart- 
ment. AH three worked in close co-operation. A de- 
partment of ‘military finance’ as distinguished from the 
civil side is suggested by the Basarh seals when they men- 
tion a Ranabhandagara. 69 

8. Maritime Activities and Military Enterprise 

From the second to the fifth centuries A.D. the Hindus, 
belonging particularly to South-East India, showed signs 
of maritime activities which culminated in the establishment 
of their political power beyond the seas. The fascinating 
account of Hindu colonial and cultural expansion beyond 
India proper, — the plantation of Hindu colonies in Sumatra, 
Java, Malay peninsula, Campa and Kambuja and the 
establishment of the Kingdom of Srlvijaya under the Sailen- 
dra Kings should ever remain a glorious episode in ancient 

66a Dr. Altekar (State anti Govt, in A. I, p. 155) suggests that 
the Mahamatya of the Maurya age and the Kumaramatya of the 
Gupta times formed a class of officers similar to the modern I.A.S. 
or l.C.S, “The Term probably refers to one who has hereditary 
right to a high office of State” (HBI. Appendix A, p. 284). 

67 Ep. Ind. X 71. 

68 A New Hist, of the Indian people, Vol. VI, p. 279. 

69 PHAI, 5th Ed, p. 563 fn. 



MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 


121 


Indian . History. 70 The Hindu expansionist movement 
began in the 2nd century and was completed in the 7th 
century A. D. The spirit of adventure, — the spirit that 
led Indians in after-ages to go abroad, to found kingdoms, 
to maintain and spread their own civilisation, was in thtfm 
ever since the Rgvedic times. This cultural expansionist 
movement was born primarily of military enterprise, love' 
of adventure and commercial gain. Although a military 
adventurer 71 sometimes seized political power, the 
cultural domination over various races in different parts of 
the Indo-Chinese peninsula was not secured by military 
aggrandisement. The maintenance of kingdoms and 
political authority far away from homeland no doubt 
requires stout hearts and efficient military organisation to 
quell from time to time internal troubles and external 
aggression. Things, however, changed in the 10th century, 
and military zeal got the upper hand under the Colas of 
Tanjore. The naval organisation of this Tamil power 
leached its high watermark of efficiency under Rajendra Cola I 
(1014-44) surnamed Gongaikonda. He made extensive 
overseas expeditions and conquered a number of islands in 
the Eastern Archipelago or modern Indonesia. 72 “Gohgai- 
konda”, it has been rightly stated, ‘‘came into possession 
of one of the great strategic keys of the world. The Bay 
of Bengal was converted into a Cola lake and the old 
movement of colonisation was given a new impetus. 73 The 
strategic importance of S. E. Pacific with reference to India’s 

70 Dr. R. . C. Majumdar — Hindu Colonies in the Far East, 
Chap. II. # 

71 lbtd p. 13. 

72 S. I. I. Vol. II. Part I. For struggle between the Colas and 
the Sailendras of Srivijaya, vide Hindu Colonies in the Far East, 

pp. 34-35- 

7} AWAI, p. 65. 



122 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


defence, so dangerously threatened in modern times, especi- 
ally during the World War II, was unthinkable. Japan was 
in the lap of feudalism : America was yet to be discovered : 
European powers were in mediaeval trammels, and the birth 
of the Far Eastern Question was distant still. 


9. Division of the Army 

About the division, composition and the equipment of 
soldiers, in the Gupta army, literary notices, epigraphs and 
coins furnish us with a few facts which enable us to say 
that the Gupta land forces were generally composed of three 
elements — infantry, cavalry and elephants. One or two 
inscriptions of the period omit chariot . 74 The use of 
camels as part of the army became frequent among the 
states of Rajaputana in the seventh and eighth centuries 
A.D. The Gupta fighting forces consisted really of 
hereditary troops (maula), local levies and feudal militia . 75 
Recruits were drawn not from any particular class, i.e. 
exclusively from the Ksatriyas. rusyamitra Sunga, 
Prthvlsena and others werp ferahmanas who were, as we 
know, elevated to the position of Commander-in-Chief 
(Mahabaladhikrta). Some seals found in different places 
within the Gupta empire seem to indicate that the army 
had different quarter- masters in different localities . 76 
Kalidasa 77 mentions such weapons as bows, arrows, swords, 
battle-axes, spears, javelins, barbed darts, etc. The poet 
also says that soldiers were supplied with armours and 
helmets. 

74 Gimaighar Ins., IHQ. VI, p. 53 & 

75 AH! pi 90. 

76 ASI (R) 1903-04 p. 108. 

77 Raghuvamsa VII. 48-49. 



•MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 1 23 

10*. . Navy 

We have already seen that the Mauryas had created a 
naval department. The naval tradition of the first 
Magadhan empire continued in the second. The Gupta 
Empire reached the sea both in the East and West 78 and 
there are reasons to believe that they fought a number of 
naval battles, too. The Allahabad Pillar Inscription 79 
states that Samudragupta’s sway extended over the dwelfers 
of islands, Sithhala included. Such a position is imaginable 
only if the possession of a navy by the Gupta sovereign is 
thought of. There is a reference to the ‘victorious camp* 
of Jivita Gupta II in the Deobaranark Inscription. The 
camp was “invincible through (its) equipment of great ships 
and elephants, horses and foot soldiers”. 80 The Apsad 
inscription { of Adityasena which refers to a naval victory 
over Susthitavarman, King of Kamarupa runs thus: 

The mighty fame of Mahasenagupta marked with 
honour of victory in war over the illustrious Susthitavarman... 
is still constantly sung on the banks of river Lohitya. 81 
In the Gunaighar Copper Plate. Inscription of Vainyagnpta 82 
(Gupta year 1 88- 507 A.D.) thece is a reference to ship but 
not to chariot as part of the army. The addition of the 
former and the omission of the latter shows that the navy 
was a factor in the army of Indian princes in the sixth 


78 Damodarpur plates of the time of Kumara Gupta I : 
Allahabad Pillar Inscription : Udayagiri Cave Inscription, Ep. Ind, 
X, p. 71 f. Ibid XV, p. 130 f. Fleet CII III, p. 6 & p. 25. Bana's 
Harsacarita als<* refers to the fall of the Saka power in Western 
India. Allan : Gupta Coins, p. XCIV. 

79 CII. III. 6f. 

8a Ibid, III p. 217. 

81 Hoernlc: JRAS, 1903. 561. 

82 IHQ VI. p. 53 If. 



124 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


century and that the chariot, the earliest instrument of 
warfare was growing less useful. But about the naval 
organisation, little information is available. 


i x . Gupta Military Strategy 

In one complete sense the Gupta period was the turn- 
ing-point in the history of ancient Indian military strategy, 
especially in respect of the methods of positional a id mobile 
warfare in particular and pitched battles in general. It is 
necessary at this stage to recall the military strategy adopted 
in previous periods and its consequences. The Mattrya 
and pre-Maurya strategy centred round huge elephant forces 
which were especially useful in positional warfares in jungle 
areas; Bimbisara’s war-elephants were a standing menace to 
his western neighbours, but later on the elephant corps had 
to give in before the Mobile Macedonian cavalry. Likewise, 
in the Scythian period, cavalry, equipped with lances and 
long bows shooting at long range and protected by heavy 
armour, was unquestionably a formidable factor in all 
operations, whether offensive" or defensive. The lessons of 
the Maurya and post-Maurya periods were not totally lost 
upon Indian princes - in the period under review, and as a 
result, we find a new orientation of the Gupta methods of 
warfare. 

It is quite likely that immediately after the overthrow 
of the Kusana power and with the growth of Magadhan 
imperialism under the Guptas, there was a reorganisation on 
the Scythian model of the Gupta army. More and more 
reliance came to be placed on heavy-armed horsemen. We 
learn from Raghuvamsa, Canto IV (Raghu’s conquest in 
Aparanta and the Western region as depicted by Kalidasa) 
that each horseman was equipped with a coat of mail going 
down to knees, a long lance, a powerful bow and a quiver 



.MILITARY PURSUITS AND NATIONAL DEFENCE 1 25 

of arrows. The cavalrymen marched in well-ordered lines 
and in close formations. Chariot formations of earlier days 
were conspicuous by their absence, having lost their effective- 
ness in Indian warfares even from the Fourth Centuty A.D. 
“The whole conception of warfare as developed in the fourth 
canto of the Raghuvaihsa”, writes Dr. Agarwal,® 8 “is based 
on movement. The idea of entrenched forces, however 
well defended, does not seem to have played an important 
part in Gupta strategy. The entire strategy of the Huna 
war, which swayed froln the north-western region right upto 
Ayodhya and Allahabad, was developed on mobile fighting 
columns and garrisons. It seems that after the decline of 
the Gupta power when the lessons of Huna warfare had 
been forgotten, there was a reversal to the old strategy of 
static defences.” 

With . the fall of the Guptas in about 550 A.D. , a 
brilliant period of ancient India, — a period of political 
excellence, military glory and cultural progress, ended. In 
the post-Gupta period the centre of political gravity was 
shifted from Magadha in the east to Kanauj in the north. 
The traditional four-fold array, so long the bulwark of 
national and territorial defence^ was undergoing a change. 
The disappearance of chariot or its partial subordination to 
elephant corps seemed to be a new feature. The abandon- 
ment of mobile warfare with more reliance on static defences 
and pitched battles appeared to be the characteristics of the 
period that followed, although in matters of recruitment, 
encampment, fortification, battle-array, espionage and 
general strategical plans, there was no appreciable departure. 


83 Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 194% p. 33. 



CHAPTER V 


THE FIRST KANAUJ EMPIRE AND ITS 
MILITARY ORGANISATION 

DISAPPEARANCE OF CHARIOT OR ITS PARTIAL 
SUBORDINATION TO ELEPHANT CORPS 

(c. 600-650 A.D.) 

Although the Huna domination in North-west India was 
stamped out through the military genius of a number of 
Indian princes, — Narasimha Baladitya II, 1 son of Tattagata 
according to Hiuen Tsang, 2 Yasodharman of Central 
India 3 and Prabhakaravardhana 4 of the Pusyabhuti dynasty 
of Thanesvara, the political unity was apparently* lost after 
the fall of the Gupta power in about 550 A.D., and 
Northern India did not attain at least a semblance of 
political unity till the glorious days of Harsa Siladitya 
(c. 606-647 A.D.). The very fact that India stood divided 
after the fall of the early Guptas would clearly prove the 
inability of that empire in its later days to maintain the 
unity and the consequent weakening of its military strength, 
so rudely shaken by the Hunas from outside and ambitious 
samanta princes or powerful Gupta feudatories from within. 

The younger son of Prabhakara, who thundered against 
the Hunas, was a born fighter. The circumstances in 

x Narasimha Baladitya is sometimes identified with Bhanu- 
gupta, the hero of ‘a very famous battle’ fought ilear Eran in the 
Central Province (vide AHI, p, 151). 

2 Beal. Life, p. in. 

3 Cl I. Ill, 146 ff. 

4 ‘A lion to the Huna deer’ . 



FIRST KANAUJ MILITARY ORGANISATION 


12 7 


which he was placed during his early years made him 
conceive the idea of bringing all Northern India under one 
system of administration. By wars and conquests whose 
number is legion, Harsa was able to impose his unques- 
tioned authority over a wide area. Though there ,is 
difference of opinion regarding the exact extent of 
Harsa's empire, it muse have included the Eastern Punjab,. 
Kanauj, the provinces of Ahicchatra, Sravasti and 
Prayaga, Magadha and Orissa (AHI, p. 1 58). His strug- 
gle with the Guptas of Malwa, the subjugation of the 
Maitrakas of Valabhi, his war with Sasanka, King of the 
Gaudas, his last campaign against Kongoda (Ganjam* 
district) on the Bay of Bengal saw his empire reach its 
eastern and western limits It extended roughly from the 
Himalayas in the north to the Narmada in the south. It is 
difficult: .at the same time to say from Hiuen Tsang’s 
reference to Harsa’s continuous warfare for six years and 
his fight with ‘Five Indies’, — that he conquered the whole 
of Northern India. 8 In the words of Hiuen Tsang, 
Harsa “went from east to west subduing all who were not 
obedient; the elephants were .not unharnessed nor soldiers 
unhelmeted.” At the time he began his conquering career 
he is said to have commanded “a force of 5,000 elephants, 

20.000 cavalry and 50,000 infantry.” Referring to the 
probable annexation of a large portion of Bengal, 
Dr. Smith, apparently relying on Watters, makes the 
following observation: 

‘‘His (Harsa’s) military resources were so increased that 
he was able to put in the field 60,000 war elephants and 

100.000 cavalry. 6 The non-employment of war chariots 
in the various campaigns of Harsa mentioned by Bana. 



128 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


bhatta 7 and the importance attached to elephant corps and 
camel forces 8 9 would suggest that the chariot as one of the 
offensive arms of ancient India was coming to. ..play 
only an insignificant role in the seventh century A.D., and 
was about to be eliminated soon altogether. But it would 
be incorrect to aver that its use stopped with the close of 
'7th Century. We learn from Hiuen Tsang® that Indian 
, genprals still rode on four-horsed chariots protected by 
bodyguards. The only military defeat that Harsa sustained 
was that on the bank of the Narmada. Here he had to 
.yield the palm to PulakesI II, the greatest King of the early 
Calukya dynasty of VatapI and Narmada remained the 
southern boundary of Harsa’s empire. 10 The physical 
conformation of his own land and the dauntless spirit of 
his fighting men, able “to defy ten thousand enemies,” 
accounts for the success of the Calukya ruler and the failure 
of his northern rival. 

The Chinese pilgrim visited Maharastra in about 
639 A.D. While speaking of the northern potentate’s defeat 
at the hands of PulakesI, he describes the warlike habits 
of the people of the Deccan thus : 

“When they had an injury to avenge they never fail to 
give warning to .their enemy, after which each puts 
on his cuirass and grasps his spear in his hand. In 
battle they pursue the fugitives but do not slay 

7 Beal. Records, I, p. 83. 

8 If the SabhasaJ Bakhar is to be believed, in the seventeen 
century the great Maratha leader Shivaji maintained an elephant 
corps numbering about 1,260, and a camel corps numbering about 
3,000 or 1,500. 

9 The number of cavalry employed seems incredible Any 
way. this proves the importance attached to cavalry in the days 
of Harsa. For recruitment of horses, see H, C., p. 50. 

10 El VI. p 10. For discussion of the chronology of Harsa’s 
campaigns, vide Classical Age, pp 108-10. 



FIRST KANAUJ MILITARY ORGANISATION 


I29 


ehgm who give themselves up. When a general 
has lost a battle, instead of punishing him corporally, 
they make him wear women’s clothes, and by that 
force him to sacrifice his own life. The state 
maintains a body of dauntless champions to the 
number of several hundreds. Each time they 
prepare for combat they drink wine to intoxicate 
them, and then one of these men, spear in hand,, 
will defy ten thousand enemies. If they kill a 
man met on the road, the law does not punish. 
Whenever the army commences a campaign braves 
march in the van to the sound of the drum. ...No 
enemy can stand before them. The king, proud 
of possessing these men and elephants, despises and 
slights the neighbouring kingdoms. 11 
Some general observations of Hiuen Tsang on the Indian 
army in the first half of the seventh century may be put 
down here. 

“The chief soldiers of the country are selected from the 
bravest of the people and as the sons followed the profession 
of their fathers, they soon acquire a knowledge of the art 
of war. These dwell in garrison around the palace (during 
peace), but when on an expedition thfey march in front as 
an advanced guard. There are four divisions of the army, 
viz. (1) the Infantry (Pattakaya), (2) the Cavalry (Asvakaya), 
(■}) the Chariots (Rathakaya) and (4) the Elephants 
(Hastikaya). The elephants were provided with sharp 
spears. A leader in a car gives the command, whilst two 
attendants on • the right and left drive the chariot, which is 
drawn by fcAir horses abreast. The general of the soldiers 
remains in the chariot; he is surrounded by a file of- guards, 


11 Beal. Life, pp. 146-47. 


MSAI — 9 



» 3 ° 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


who keeps close to his chariot wheels. The cavalry spread 
themselves in front to resist an attack and in case of defeat 
they carry orders hither and thither. The infantry by their 
quick movements contribute to the defence. These men 
wele chosen for their courage and strength. They carry a 
long spear and a great shield; sometimes they hold a sabre 
or sword and advance to the front with impetuosity. All 
fhese weapons of war are sharp and pointed. Some of 
them are these — spears, shields, bows, arrows, swords, sabres, 
battle-axes, lances, holstes, long javelins and various kinds 
of slings. All these they have used for ages .” 12 Fort- 
engineering was not a forgotten art in the seventh century. 
Bana mentions Surahgabheda 13 and includes it as a part of 
the curricula of studies prescribed for Prince Candraplda . 14 

According to one writer , 14 ' 1 Upper Bengal, Malwa (Ujjain) 
and Assam were ruled by their own kings who were 
probably Harsa’s vassals. It is, therefore, just possible 
that the Kanaujan sovereign in defending his own realm and 
extending his conquests had to depend upon his own 
standing army (the “garrison around the palace” during 
peace?), as also upon the feudal militia assembled at his 


12 Beal. Records. I. pp. 82-83. C/° The war weapons in the 
hands of soldiers represented in the Ajanta frescoes. Burgess— Notes 
on the Buddhist Rock Temple of Ajantai etc., pp. 1 1,20,51,67,68,72 
etc. 

13 Kadamvari Kale’s Edition, p. 125. 

i/} Dr. Agarwal’s observation on the fort-engineering deserves 
mention. “The technical term, Surranga’’, he writes, “can be 
understood only after looking at an actual mediaeval fort, e.g. 
Dcvagiri. After crossing the moat and the bridge there began a 
difficult passage through rock as a closed structure entry through 
which was essential to reach the main palace inside the fort.” 
(Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 1949, p. 33). 

14a Aiyenger. Hist, of India Part I., p. 114. 



FIRST KANAUJ MILITARY ORGANISATION 131 

behest by his vassal chiefs. Bhasakaravatmana, King of 
Kamrupa, for instance, fought against Harsa’s enemies, 
especially the Gaudas of Karnasuvarna, as his subordinate 
ally. Hiuen Tsang has spoken highly of Harsa’s adminis- 
trative system and of the personal supervision of the realm 
during most part of the year. 

There is, however, no reference to the royal navy or to 
any naval engagements. But we learn from the Ljfe of 
Hiuen Tsang 15 that “sometime in 642 A.D. Bhaskara 
varmana proceeded with his army of elephants 20,000 in 
number to meet Harsa at Kajangala near Rajmahal, and his 
30,000 ships passed along the Ganges to the same direc- 
tion.” The number of ships mentioned is evidently an 
exaggeration, but does it not give the impression that 
Harsa’s ally possessed ships and that with the land and 
naval forces at his command he established his rule over the 
dominions of Sasanka either for himself or for his suzerain? 
For whom parts of Bengal were conquered has remained a 
matter of controversy. 10 The Kingdom of Kamrupa 
possessed a powerful navy. A later evidence suggests that 
Vaidyadeva, the fovourite minister of Kumarapala, King of 
Bengal and Bihar, was in a position to defeat Tingyadeva 
possibly because he could utilise Assamese navy. 17 

At the time of Hiuen Tsang’s visit in India “the nati- 
onal guards are heroes of choice valour as the profession is 
hereditary, they became adepts in military tactics... they are 
perfect experts with all the implements of war having been 
drilled in them for generations.” 18 Thus about the military 
practices in the seventh century we learn quite a lot from 


15 Beal, life, p. 172. 

1 6 H. B. I, p. 78. 

18 Beal: Records I. 82. 


17 Ep. Ind. II. 351. 



132 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Hiuen Tsang and Bana. As to the method of recruitment, 
the standing armies (National guards?) of Harsa’s empire 
were enlisted from all classes and the system of local levies 
is often met with. This system is as old as the Vedas and 
its 'survival in the seventh century is apparent from the 
following lines: 

“The soldiers are levied according to the requirements 
©f service; they are promised certain payments and are 
publicly enrolled .” 19 

All ancient writers on war, particularly the writers of 
the Epics and Kautilya, have attached great importance to 
the theatre of war and the position and equipment of camps. 
In all works dealing with the art of warfare a camp is 
described as looking like “a fortified town.” Bana’s account 
of Harsa’s camp near Manitara 20 fits in with this des- 
cription and adds strength to Dr. Chakravarty’s 21 statement 
that ‘a Hindu camp appears to have retained this character 
throughout our period.’ Bana 22 gives a graphic description 
of the Indian army on the march in the following manner : 

“At the close of the thir,d watch, when all creatures 
slept and all was still, .the marching drum was beaten 
...then after a moment’s pause, eight sharp strokes 
were distinctly given anew upon the drum, making 
up the number of the leagues in the day’s march... 
Commanders mustered crowds of barrack Super- 
intendents... shrill words of command from the 
Marshals dispelled the slumbers of blinking riders... 
servants of house builders rolled up yawnings and 
clothscreens belonging to tents and marquees... Many 


19 Beal: Records, pp. 87-88. 

20 H. C. Tr., p. 46 ff. 

21 AWA 1 , p. 19. 

22 H. C. tr. pp. 199-21 1. 



HRST KANAUJ MILITARY ORGANISATION 


*33 


plephjint attendants were pressed to convey the 

stores... the carriages of high-born nobles’ wives 
were thronged with toguish emissaries sent by princes 
of rank... first ran bannerbearers,..when the. adorable 
sun arose, the signal conch rang out repeatedly 
announcing the moment of the King’s arraying the 
army.. .the company of feudatory kings who werp 

awaiting his arrival greeted him, and bowed with 

bodies dutifully bent down. ..the emperor inr his 
turn, distributed among them tokens of his favour, 
such as quarter glances, side glances, full glances, 
raised eye-brows, half-smiles, jests, plays upon words, 
enquiries after their health, return greetings, care- 
less movements of the brow, and instructions accor- 
ding to their several deserts. After the review of 
the army by the emperor was over, the march 

began .” 33 

There are reasons for drawing the conclusion from the 
foregoing review that upto the end of the seventh century 
ancient India’s military tradition and organisation remained 
substantially unbroken in theory, although in practice and 
in detail traces of weakness were fast appearing. India’s 


23 A similar description of the march of the army of an 
emperor found in Hindi poem by Shridar Muralidar of Allahabad 
has been quoted in Irvine’s great book, — The Army of the Indian 
Moghuls (p. 206). The high-born ladies accompanying the army 
referred to by Bana shows the influence of the harem. Magha’s 
Sisupala-Vadha describes prostitutes as camp-followers. It is difficult 
to understand if it was the practice throughout the Hindu period. 
We, however, find a departure in the time of the Hindu ruler 
Shivaji who disavowed the system, as "no woman, female slave or 
dancing girl was to be allowed to accompany the army”. 

See also the description of the Kuru Camp given in Mabht. 
Udyoga-Parva. 



134 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

national defence was on its trial in the early par.t of . the 
eighth century when she had to face the Arab army in Sind. 
Dr. Chakravarty’s 24 contention that the use ol chariots 
in ancient India’s warfare had been in decline for many 
centuries and that its use became less and less in the post- 
Mauryan period, is based on carefully collected evidence, 
both epigraphic and literary. The cause of its disappearance 
from the military arena seems to be its cumbrous nature, 
its urtsuitability for employment in every field and the 
growing usefulness of cavalry and mobile horsemen realised 
from past experience. It is difficult to understand why the 
elephant corps was not discontinued also. The reason pro- 
bably is that there was no better substitute. It caused no 
doubt havoc in the ranks of enemy often deciding the fate 
of battles quickly, but its defects were as great as its use- 
fulness. In the historical period, discomfiture was more due 
to the employment of elephant corps than to that of chariots. 
Sukranlti , 25 a late work on Niti Sdstra, while dealing with 
the composition of the army, gives a warning to Indian 
kings in the following manner: 

‘He (the king) shall havedn the army a predominance 
of foot-soldiers, a medium quantity of horse, a small 
amount of elephant force, equal number of bulls and 
camels, but never elephant in excess .’ 

More than a century elapsed between the expulsion of 
the Hunas and the Arab invasion of Sind. Unless some 
organisational defect had crept in in the meantime due to 
political or social causes, an easy success on the part of the 
Arabs would have been somewhat difficult. India’s national 
defence was not then on its last legs. The Arab^ infiltration 
was confined to a limited area and the Arab rule in Western 
India was short-lived. 


24 AWAI, pp. 25-26, 


25 B. K. Sarkar’s tr. 219. 



CHAPTER SIX 


THE BACKGROUND OF THE ARAB AND . 
TURKISH MENACE 

EFFORTS OF SOME IMPORTANT RULING DYNASTIES 

THE BRAHMAN CACH DYNASTY OF SIND, THE HINDU . 
SAH1S OF AFGANISTAN AND THE PUNJAB, THE GUU- 
JARA-PRATIHARAS OF KANAUJ, THE CAHAMANAS 
OF SAKAMBHARI, AJMERE AND DELHI AND THE 
GAHADVALAS OF KANAUJ AND VARANASI FOR 
NATIONAL DEFENCE 

A New Grouping of States Through Social and 
Political Changes 

The death of Harsa Siladitya and the collapse of his 
empire mark the end of an age. A usurper Arjuna by name 
seized the throne and tried to maintain his power in va«n. 
Then the empire was temporarily revived in the eighth 
century by one Yasovarman who was defeated in the first 
half of that century by Lahtaditya, the most powerful king 
of Kasmira, a king whose di^vijaya is recorded in Rajataran- 
ginl. 1 His efforts proved futile, and Kanauj became the 
target of attack from many sides. 2 .and did not see better 
days until the capture of the city by Nagabhata II sometime 
before 836 A.D. The period from the death of Harsa to 
the invasion of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna is often called 
the period of Rajput ascendancy, as in most parts of India 


1 Stein’s Eng. tr. Vol. I, pp. 88.92. 

2 ‘Wh;»t Babylon was to the martial races of Western Asia, 
what Rome was to the Teutonic barbarians and Byzantium to the 
mediaeval world Eastern and Southern Europe, that was MahodayaSri 
to the uprising dynasties of the eighth and ninth centuries A. D.’ 
quoted in AHl, p. 161. 



136 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

ruling families styled themselves ‘Rajputs’ endowed witji a 
high sense of military honour. If the period under Review 
saw the absence of a superior controlling force like that of 
the Mauryas, the Guptas and the Pusyabhutis in Indian 
politics, and if the country was stuffed with a bundle of 
petty independent states with ever-shifting boundaries and 
perpetual jealousies culminating in occasional intra-Indian 
warfares,’ it was, nevertheless, the happiest period, as no 
foreign inroad except that of the Arabs in Sind and Gujarat 
thundered at her gates. 

In order to grasp the apparent vitality of the period due 
to immunity from foreign raids, we must now turn to the 
history of Rajput families and clans who played a worthy 
part in the military history of the period, and trace their 
origin and its significance as briefly as possible. The 
Rajputs suddenly appear on the stage of Indian history in 
the seventh and eighth centuries, win kingdom, set them- 
selves up as a Ksatriyas of ancient Vedic times, become ardent 
lovers of their country and religion, and maintain their supre- 
macy in the mountain fortresses of Rajputana till the end 
of the eighteenth century. The question of their origin 
has been subjected to much discussion and the theories about 
it are perplexing. Col. Tod in his Annals and Antiquities 
cf Rajasthan holds the view that they were of Scythian 
descent and entered India along with the Hunas and Gur- 
jaras. His view is shared by many writers including 
Dr. Smith, who, while agreeing with Col. Tod that the 
Rajputs of Northern India were the descendants of barbarian 
foreign immigrants into Rajputana, is of opinion that some 
of the principal clans of the south are of indigeneous origin, 
being descendants of the so-called aboriginal tribis such as 
Gonds, Bhars, Kols etc . 3 The tradition preserved in the 


3 EHI 4th Ed., p. 429. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 1 37 

‘ Chand Raisa, advances the Agnikula theory. The view 
that they were descendants of ancient Ksatriyas being incap- 
able or credence, the foreign origin theory has gained general 
acceptance . 4 

The intermixture of Indians and foreigners that -had 
been taking place for some centuries seemed both deep and 
unconscious, and an infusion of fresh blood added to their 
courage and fighting capacity. The military ardour of the 
Rajputs, it may be presumed, was foreign, their patriotism 
and devotion to religion was Indian. The new grouping of 
states on the ruins of Harsa’s empire had its advantages. 
It brought in a new aristocracy and a new martial spirit, 
and out of this process of assimilation a stronger, though 
not a united India, ready to resist external aggression, 
emerged. ‘A high feeling of chivalry and honour, of inde- 
pendence and patriotism animated all Rajputs, and this 
sameness had much to do with the fusion of the various 
clans which had ethnologically stood apart from one ano- 
ther . 5 Despite occasional struggle among themselves for 


4 Scholars like Dr. Smith and Dr. D. R. Bhandarknr support 
the foreign origin theory, while* well known writers like C. V. 
Vaidya and Gouri Sankar Ojha stick to the belief that the Rajputs 
were the descendants of ancient Ksatriyas. Anthropologists do 
not accept the foreign origin theory. Dr. B. N. Dutta, on the 
other hand, observes, 'It is not impossible that many of the Sakas and 
the ruling class of the Gurjara tribes became Ksatriyas and got the 
new affiliation Rajaputra or son of a raja. The new name differen- 
tiates them at once from the ancient Ksatriyas. (Studies in Indian 
Social Polity, p. 257). Dr. D. C. Ganguly entertains douht about 
the foreign origin theory and says that ‘there is no strength in 
the argument that the Rajputs were originally foreigners as they 
are not mentioned in any literature of the early period ...and 
that a correct solution of the problem is yet to be arrived at.’ 
(Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 1949, p. 117). 

5 Ishwari Prosad. A short History of Muslim Rule, p. 15. 



138 MILITARY SYSTLM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

power, these brave Rajputs opposed tooth and <- nail ' the 
advance of the Arabs, Turks and Afghans. Even after 
their power of resistance had frittered away, they remained 
stout defenders of their hearth and home. The Sisodia house 
Mewar showed the house of Timur an indomitable spirit 
of independence, and even those who chose to lend support 
to the imperialistic scheme of the Moghuls proved their 
worth by being indispensable adjuncts to the Moghul Army 
and Administration. The military history of the country 
from the eighth century to the fall of the Moghuls was 
dominated by the Rajputs. 

A. The Brahmana Cach Dynasty of Sind 

While the empire of Harsa was falling to pieces and 
the centrifugal tendency was gathering momentum, a great 
religion, — Islam was taking shape in the deserts of .Arabia. 
Islam was destined to bring in its train a big empire, exten- 
ding from the Straits of Gibraltar in the West to the 
Western seaboard of India in the East. Within twenty 
years of the Prophet’s death the banner of Islam was planted 
in Egypt, Syria.. Palestine, Persia and Afghanistan. It was 
the rapidly-moving eastward ’drive of this new faith that 
threatened India in the first quarter of the eighth century. 
Easy of access along the coast of the Arabian sea, Sind was 
the first slice of land to be overwhelmed by the Arabs . 6 
It is necessary at this stage to recount briefly the political 
history of the Kingdom of Sind with special reference to its 
ruling dynasty, boundaries and defences on the eve of the 
Arab invasion. The Arab attack on Sind was not a rash 
or ill-conceived undertaking. It was preceded by a number 
of expeditions intended to pillage the coasts of India. At 
first, they were a sort of punitive expeditions against the 

6 Syed Ameer Ali. A Short History of the Saracens, p. 104. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


*39 


pirates. .The immediate cause of the appearance of the 
armies* of Islam in Sind was supplied by the seizure of ships 
bearing presents from the King of Ceylon to al-Hajaj, 
Governor of Iraq. All these were to end in the • organised 
invasion of Sind by Muhammad Bin Kasim in about 
7 1 2-7 1 3 A.D. and its ultimate conquest by that excellent 
Arab General whose exploits are “one of the romances of 
history.” 

The only book from which anything reliable is known 
about Sind from the sixth century A.D. to its conquest by 
the Arabs is the Chachnama (also called Tarikh-i-Hind- 
Wa-Sind or Fathnama), a Persian work written in the time 
of and dedicated to Nasir-ud-Dln Qabacha (613 A.H.- 
1216 A.D.). The Chinese pilgrim Yuan Chwang visited 
Sind in the middle of the seventh century. His account 
refers to. the reigning king, “who was of the Slid r a caste 
(Shu-to-lo)...</ sincere man and a believer in Buddhism. ’ 7 
The Chahnama furnishes details. According to it, Brahmana 
Cach (643-671 A.D.), his brother Candar and his son 
Dahir (679-7/2 A.D.) occupied the throne after the Rai 
dynasty which had ruled from 450-463. The last member 
of the Rais was Rai Sahasi II (c: 643 A.D.). 

Cach, who succeeded the Rai. rulers, was a vigorous 
king, and administered an extensive area whose frontiers 
touched Kasmlra and included Mukram and Siwistan. His 
territory comprised the whole of the lower Indus Valley 
plus some portions of Beluchistan. He is said to have 
augmented his power by defeating a king named Mahrat 
who is described as the chief of Jaipur, Jodhpur or Chitor 
in about ^he first year of the Hijira (623 A.D.). 8 What 
land and naval forces if any, Brahmana Cach and his son 

7 Y. C., Vol. II. p. 252. Elliot I, pp. 410-11, 

8 DHNI, Vol. I, p. 4-5. 



iqo 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Dahir had in readiness to resist the Arabs, who began 
pillaging the coast as early as 637 A.D. in the Caliphate of 
Omar, we have practically no means of ascertaining. No 
ship was stationed to guard the western coastal belt which 
was frequently the scene of piracy and was ravaged by 
searovers over whom Dahir had apparently no control. In 
reply to al-Hajaj’s request to set free the Muslim woman 
captured on ship by the Meds of ad-Daibul (Debal) Dahir 
sent the following message : 

‘Pirates over whom I have no control, captured.’ 9 
This was regarded as an unsatisfactory reply and the Arab 
governor of Iraq organised the expedition on a grand scale. 
The Arab naval attack on Tanah (Modern Thana near 
Bombay) and Barwas (Broach) was the forerunner of the 
final conquest of Sind by Muhammad bin Kasim. There 
is nothing on record to show that the Arab fleet with 
military equipment was ousted by the Indian ruler. It saw 
the defeat-and death of the ruler of Sind whose capital was 
at Alor. 10 In the spring of 712 A.D. Muhammad bin 
Kasim at the head of a large and well-equipped army landed 
in Debal , 11 and at once began fhe offensive. The first act 
of Arab aggression was tq pull down the red flag floating 
over a big temple. Elphinstone 12 writes: 


9 Futuh al-Buldan rr. Hitti Mergotten, pp. 215-16. 

10 Alor has been generally identified with Rohre on the Indus, 
x 1 Debal is generally placed by most scholars near the port of 
Karachi, but there are others who place it near Tatta on the left 
bank of the main Indus Channel. Vide DHNI I, p. 7. fn. 

Relics of what is considered to be the earliest Muslim settle- 
ment in India-Debal, the place where Muh. Bin Kasim effected 
landing, have been recently found on a mound 35 miles north-east 
of Karachi. The Pakistan Go /ernment will soon undertake 
excavation work. Reported in the 'statesman” of January 22, 1951. 
1 2 History of India — Cowell’s cd., p. 308. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


141 

‘While Kasim was considering the difficulties opposed 
to him, he was informed by some of his prisoners 
that the safety of the place was believed to depend 
upon the flag which was displayed on the towers of 
that temple. He directed his engines against that sacked 
standard and at last succeeded in bringing it to the 
ground, which occasioned so much dismay in thfc 
garrison as to cause the speedy fall of the place.’ 

A clash soon took place, and the Hindus, who came to 
oppose, were defeated by the Muslims. The city presented 
a scene of massacre and rapine. After taking Debal, a 
famous seaport town, the Arab general marched upon 
Nerun (part of Brahamanabad, Elliot I. p. 1 56) the inhabitants 
of which submitted. He crossed the Indus by constructing 
a bridge of boats. The rapid advance of Arab troopers 
and the 'news of their crossing the Indus became a source 
of anxiety to Dahir. Realising the supreme need of the 
hour, he fell upon Rewar — (Raor). A terrible battle ensued. 
“The enemy”, says Lane Poole, 13 “unable to oppose the 
landing, fell back upon Rewar, where the Arabs beheld for 
the first time the impositfg array of chiefs, mounted on 
armoured war-elephants and ted by their King Dahir. 
Naptha arrows, however, disordered the elephants and set 
fire to the howdahs; the king was slain, the Hindus fled, 
and the Muslims glutted themselves with massacre.” At 
this hour of national crisis Diihir’s wife Rani Biu and her 
son, when the Hindus, defeated and leaderless, were com- 
pletely disorganised, stationed themselves in the fortress of 
Rewar, determined to offer stubborn resistance to the enemy 
till everything was given up for lost. This incident reminds 
us of the heroic resistance put up by the Carthaginians 


13 Medieval India, p. 9. 



142 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


against Rome during the Third Punic War (146 B. r C.),when 
'the whole city was turned into a workshop of arms in 
which men and women in relays laboured day and night... 
the women cutting off their hair to be twisted into cords 
for the engines.’ 14 

The Queen, ‘reviewed the remnant of her garrison, 15 
thousand in number in the fort, and forthwith stones from 
mangonels and ballistas, as well as arrows and javelins 
began to be rained down thickly upon the Arabs, who 
were encamped under the walls of the fort.’ 15 In siege 
operations Indians, it seems, used, as in the Medieval 
Europe, the battering-ram, the catapult and the movable 
tower as the principal offensive weapons. 10 But the Arabs 
did not lose heart. They conducted the siege with courage 
and hope and the fort ultimately capitulated. The heroic 
queen with her retinue burnt herself in Indian fashion to 
save the honour of her country. 17 Muhammad bin Kasim 
then occupied the fort, and marched upon Brahmanabad 
(modern Hyderabad), and within a short time his conquer- 
ing zeal brought Multan, 18 the most important city in the 
Upper Indus, under his control* With the occupation of 


14 Shuckburg — History of Rome, p. 520. 

15 Ishwari P. — A short History of Muslim rule, pp. 33-34. 

16 Thompson & Johnson — An Introduction to Medieval 
Europe, p. 317. 

17 Such incidents are not rare in Indian history. The Rajput 
heroes and ladies olfered strong resistance to the enemy in the 
Turco-Afghan and Moghul periods, especially during the sieges of 
Chitor, “the sacred stronghold of Rajput liberty/’ 

18 “For three centuries Multa,n (ancient Kasyapap\ir) remained 
the outpost of Islam; but the occupation was in the main military 
and there was no general settlement of Muh. invaders or conver- 
sion of Hindu inhabitants till the Ghaznivid period ” Imperial Gaz. 
XVIII, p. 25. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


M3 

Multan, $ind passed virtually into Arab hands. One is 
not justified, however, in calling it a facile conquest. The 
fight put up by Dahir and his family was not tame or 
unworthy. The ruler of Sind had not been wholeheartedly 
supported by all sections of his people and as usual, treachery 
had its part. “The conquest of Sind” says one writer, 
“should not be regarded as indicating in a general way the 
superiority of the Muslims over the Indians from a military 
point or view. ..To the inexplicable want of strategy oh the] 
part of Dahir and the treachery of the Buddhists of the 
South, we must add the base betrayal of the chief officers 
and grandees of Sind to account for its ruler’s ignominous 
end.” 18a The rise to power of the Rajputs in the seventh 
century and the growth of orthodox forms of Hinduism 
had much to do with the discomfiture of the Brahmana 
King Dahir. Thus, “the Jats and the agricultural classes 
who helped Muhammad bin Kasim in his invasion of Sind, 
did so not out of love for the conqueror but to wreak venge- 
ance on the Brahmins whose tyranny they could not forget, 
and especially on King Dahir, the Brahmin usurper 19 of 
the throne of Sind whose previous king was a Buddhist. ” 19a 
The Chachnama 20 writes : — ‘The Arab army marched on 
till it reached the fort of Bait, and all the horsemen were 
clad in iron armour. Pickets were posted in all directions, 
and orders were given to dig an entrenchment round the 
camp and to deposit the baggage there. Muhammad bin 
Kasim then advanced from the fort of Bait towards Rewar, 


1 8a Quoted in ‘Famous battles in Indian History’ by T. G. 
Subrahmanyafl, p. 150. 

19 Y. C., Vol II. p. 252. describes Dahir’s remote predecessor 
as one who was Sudra by caste and Buddhist in faith. 

19a Mitra — The Vision of India, p. 87. 

20 Elliot I. p. 167-68. 



144 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

till lie arrived at a place cilled Jewar (Jaipur). • Between 
Rewar and Jewar was a lake on which Dahir had stationed 
a select body of troops to reconnoitre.’ 

This proves that Dahir did not neglect to take pre- 
cautionary measures. The Chachnama 21 further tells us 
that Dahir employed about 500 Arab troopers and placed 
them in charge of a Muslim general. He was, therefore, 
aware of the strength and serviceability of the Arab mounted 
soldiers, having already used them against his own enemies. 
After all, it was not a Veni-Vidi-Vici affair, and the army 
and the machines employd in the task were enormous. 
Commenting on the view shared by Firishta that the con- 
quest of Sind was effected by six thousand men, Elliot 22 
observes : 

“The more correct statement given by our Arab 
authorities show that independent of an advanced 
guard under Abu-I-Asand Jahan, which was ordered 
to join Muhammed Kasim on the borders of Sind, 
there were 6,ooo picked cavalry from Syria and 
Iraq, 6,000 armed Camel riders, thoroughly equipped 
for military operations, \Vith a baggage train of 
3,000 Bactnan camels, 'which however, Mir Ma’sum 
converts into 3,000 infantry. In Makran Muha- 
mmad Kasim was joined by the governor, Muha- 
mmad Harun, with other reinforcements, and five 
catapults, together with necessary ammunition, were 
transported by sea to Debal. The number of men 
conveyed by the naval squadron may be estimated 
by the fact that we find one catapult alone requir- 
ing no less than five hundred men work k.... Besides 
these Arab troops, we find the Jats and Meds 

21 Elliot I, 156. 

22 Elliot Appendix, p. 434-435. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 145 

enlisting under Muhammad Kasim’s banner, which 
independent of its moral effect in dividing national 
sympathies and relaxing the unanimity of defence 
against foreign aggression, must have been qf incal- 
culable benefit to him, in his disproportionate excess of 
cavalry which could be but of little service in a country 
intersected by rivers, swamps and canals.” 

Though culturally of great import, the Arab conquest 
of Sind was a failure politically, — ‘a mere episode in " the 
history of India and of Islam, — a triumph without results’, 
and it affected only ‘a fringe of that vast country.’ 33 Mir 
Ma’sum stated that two years after the death of Kasim, the 
people of India rebelled, and threw off their yoke, and the 
country from Debalpur to the Salt sea only remained the 
dominions of the Khalifa. 24 The inability of the Arabs to 
impose their authority on lands beyond Sind probably sug- 
gests the volume of opposition given to the foreigners by 
the Gurjara-Pratlharas, the Calukyas and the Karkotas of 
Western, Southern and Northern India respectively. 35 The 
Arab general of Sind made serious efforts to extend the 
bounds of his dominion and undertook several expeditions 
for the purpose. Baladhurl would have us believe that 
Junayd (the governor) defeated and killed Dahir’s son, 
Hulllshah, who had ‘apostatized and opposed his advance 
after a naval battle. 26 It is further learnt that the Arab 
advance received a definite setback when the Lata prince 
of South Gujarat Abanl Janasraya repulsed a formidable 
Tajik invasion in 738-39 which affected the kingdoms 
of Sindhu, Cutch, Saurastra etc. 37 - The Gwalior inscription 
of Bhoja I of the Gurjara-Pratlhara line states that Nagabhata I, 

23 CHI III, p. 10. 24 Elliot I, p. 438. ' 

25 AHI, p. 182. 26 KFB, Pt. II, pp. 226-27. 

27 The Nausari Grant : Bombay Gazetteer I. 109. 


MSAI — IO 



146 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

King of Avanti, defeated a mlechha ruler in abou£ 725 
A. D. 28 The Rajputs of Western India, therefore,' played 
the same part as .Charles Martel of the Merovingian dynasty 
did on the plain of Tours (Poitiers) in 732 A.D. 29 , or the 
Elector of Saxony, the Duke af Lorraine and Sobieski of 
Poland did under the walls of Vienna in 1683. The Indian 
princes apparently rose to the occasion inspired by a new 
martial spirit and patriotism, and further progress of the 
Arab arms was arrested. 30 Many causes no doubt con- 
tributed to the extinction of the Arab suzerainty in Sind, 
such as distance, indifference of the Caliphate, heavy cost 
of administration in proportion to its revenue, but the 
will of the neighbouring Hindu states to drive the Arabs 
bag and baggage was not perhaps a negligible factor. The 
Hindu military defence was still very strong. A gap of 
nearly three centuries intervenes between the Arab aggres- 
sion and the Turkish raids whose effect was permanent. 

B. The Hindu Sahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab 

The history of Afghanistan and the Punjab from the 
overthrow of the Kusana power by the Brahmana Kollar 
to the day when the kingdom was destroyed by 
Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni is an instructive study in mili- 
tary history. In the early part of the tenth century Jayapala, 
the most eminent representative of the Hindu Sahis ruled 
over an extensive empire with his capital at Waihind 
(Udabhandapur). We learn from Firishta 31 that the do- 

28 I. A. 191 1, p. 240. 

29 Meyers — Medieval History, p. 106. 

30 For reasons why the Arabs did not follow up their annexa- 
tion of Sind by further territorial conquests in the interior of the 
country, see - Elphinstone — History of India, pp. 305-306. 

31 T. F. Brigg’s tr. I, p. 15. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


*47 


minioys of Jayapala extended in length from Sirhind in the 
Punjab and Lamghan (Kabul) and in breadth from the 
Kingdom of Kasmlr to Multan. The rise of the Turkish 
principality of Ghazni in the same century and the territori- 
al adjacency of Hindu and Muslim rulers became, before 
long, a fruitful cause of conflict. 32 The existence of a power- 
ful Hindu monarchy at the strategic point of India’s 
northwestern frontier and the growing fear of Turkish„raid« 
on Hindu territories invested Jayapala with a heavy 
responsibility which he shouldered for a pretty long time 
in the interest of India’s national defence. In the words 
of Firishta, 

“Fie (Jayapala) resided in the fort of Bhatinda for the con- 
venience of caking steps for opposing the Mtthommedans 
On the military strength and valour of this prince depended 
to a large extent the safety of the interior, as he occupied 
the key position on the gateway to India. When that line 
of defence was broken through, practically all Hindusthan 
lay exposed to Muslim arms. The raid of the Ghaznivides 
began even during the life-time of Alptigln (c. 933-963 
A. D.). Under his succes&r Sabuktigin the situation 
rapidly changed, and it became* quite impossible for the 
Sahis to sit idle and tolerate Turkish aggression. Noticing 
the insecurity of his Western dominions, Jayapala gathered 
a vast army and marched on Lamghan 33 (c. 988) to force the 
Sultan to abandon his frequent raids. A battle took place 
near Lamghan in which the Hindu king was defeated and 
compelled to sign a treaty. During the negotiations for 


32 Preliminaries of this conflict fully discussed by Dr. H, C. 
Ray, DHNI Vol. I., pp. 80-81. 

3 } ‘A city celebrated for its great strength and abounding in 
wealth’ Elliot vol II (Indian Edition, p. 22). 



148 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

peace the Sahi monarch is said to have forwarded & spirited 
note to Sabuktigfn to this effect: 

I You have heard and known the nobleness of India, 
now that, in seasons of extremity, they fear not 
death or destruction. They run the edge of the 
sword over those who wrong them, where there is no 
means of escaping the blade. In affairs of honour 
and renown, we would place ourselves upon the 
fire like roast meat, and upon the dagger like the 
sun-rays .’ 84 

Does not the above quotation from ‘Utbl’ prove the 
determination of Jayapala to brave all perils in the national 
cause? 

Jayapala violated the treaty he concluded by surrendering 
four forts and fifty elephants . 35 That was the cause of the 
second military action. In this connection Dr. H. C. Ray 36 
observes, — ‘The Muslim historians, as usual, throw all the 
blame on Jayapala, but it is not unlikely that this was a 
mere pretext for renewing hostilities on both sides.’ Jayapala, 
who enjoyed the confidence of Indian princes, lost no time 
in organising a confederacy of Hindu princes, consisting of 
Delhi, Ajmere, Kalinjar and Kanauj who helped him with 
men and money . 37 Inspire of his best efforts to crush the 
formidable foe Jayapala was defeated for the second time 

34 KY > P- 37- 

35 According to ‘Utbi (Elliot II. 27) the terms offered by the 
Sahi king were — ‘by way of ransom 1,000 packets of 1,000 dinars 
sterling and five stables full of elephants’... by giving up 'some 
cities of Hindusthan and some fortresses within the . heart of his 
kingdom.’ 

36 DHNI I, p. 83, 

• 37 T. F. Brigg’s tr., p. 18. According to the CHI Vol. Ill, 

p. 507, this confederacy was formed not against Subuktigin, but 
against Mahmud in 1001 A. D. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


149 

at Lamghin in about 991 A.D. The army assembled in 
his last expedition against Ghazni was by no means small 
and untrained. The Muslim historians like Firishta, 
Nizam-ud-Dln, and as a matter of fact all the authorities 
have stated that Jayapala’s army consisted of ioo.qoo 
cavalry and many elephants and ‘an innumerable host of 
foot’ and that it looked ‘like the boundless ocean and in 
number like the ants and locusts of the wilderness.’ The 
Hindu reverses were apparently due to the superior gefieraU 
ship of the Sultan. After Subuktigln, his successor Mahmud 
took up the struggle and continued it in full vigour till the 
Sahis were completely annihilated. Himself an intrepid 
general and an ardent follower of Islam, Mahmud heard of 
the fabulous wealth of Hind. He inherited his father’s 
enmity to the Sahis and fell upon their territory at the head 
of a large army. With the sole object of revenge and 
plunder, he raided the Indian territories several times, under- 
taking one expedition almost every year between 1001 and 
1025 A.D. In his second expedition he attacked Jayapala. 
The latter was taken by surprise and had to face the enemy 
before his mobilisation wa; complete. A hard contested 
battle took place on the 8th JMuharram, 392 A.H. (1001 
A.D.). Jayapala was defeated and taken prisoner. After 
release, he abdicated in favour of his son, Anandapala. 
Jayapala’s thirty years’ struggle with the Ghaznivides ended 
in a failure. It now became the duty of his successor to 
save himself and his country against overwhelming odds. 
On a new pretext but clearly to settle the old score Mahmud 
invaded the territory of Anandapala in 1004. After 
pillaging # Bhera 38 and Multan, the Sultan fell upon 
Lahore finally in 1 008 A.D. This attack was of a serious 


38 Vijayaraja, the ruler of the principality of Bhera (Bhatiah) 
the impregnability of which has been attested by Muslim his- 



I 5 ° 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


kind, and there was no lack of preparations on the* pyc of 
Anandapala. Thus writes Firishta : 39 

“Anandapala, hearing of his intentions, sent ambas- 
sadors on all sides inviting the assistance of other princes 
‘of Hindusthan, who now considered the expulsion 
of the Muhammedans from India as a sacred duty. 
Accordingly the rajas of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kanauj, 
Delhi and Ajmere entered into a confederacy, and 
collecting their forces, advanced towards the Punjab 
with the greatest army that had yet taken the field... 
The Hindu women on this occasion sold their jewels 
and melted down their golden ornaments (which 
they sent from distant parts) to furnish resources for 
the war; and the Gukkars and other warlike tribes 
joining the army, surrounded the Mahommedans, 
who were obliged co entrench their camp.” 

Commenting on the war efforts of the Sahis the 
Cambridge History of India 40 remarks: 

“The number and consequences of his allies are 
perhaps exaggerated, but it’ is evident from Mahmud’s 
excessive caution that ' Anandapala had received a 
considerable accession of strength and that the army 
which he led into the field was very different from 


torians like ‘Utbi and Firishta, is presumed to have played the 
part of a second Poros. The place was taken by Mahmud, but 
the story of defence sheds a lustre on the heroism of the ruler, 
who ‘relying on his lofty hill and drunk in the pride of his numer- 
ous followers, came out of the city... and stood the engagement. 
The battle, raged for three days outside the citywalls, and he did 
not think of escape till the fortress was besieged.’ (Vide DHNI 
I, pp. 87-88). 

39 T. F. VoL II, p. 46. 40 Vol.'ll, p. 16. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


1 5 I 

thflt which Mahmud had so easily brushed aside on his 
way to Multan.” 

How the battle raged and how ultimately Anandapala 
went down is learnt from the following lines of Fir*ishta : 4t 

“Mahmud. ..ordered 6,000 archers to the front *to 
endeavour to provoke the enemy to attack his 
entrenchments. The archers were opposed by 
Gukkars, who inspite of the King’s effort and. 
presence, repulsed his light troops and followed them 
so closely that no less than 30,000 Gukkars with 
their heads and feet bare and armed with various 
weapons, penetrated into the Mahommedans lines, 
when a dreadful carnage ensued, and in a few 
minutes 5,000 Mahommedans were slain. The 
enemy were at length cut off as fast they advanced, 
the* attacks became fainter and fainter till on a 
sudden the elephant upon which the prince who 
commanded the Hindus rode, becoming unruly 
from the effects of the nephtha balls, and the flight 
of arrows, turned and fled. The circumstances 
produced a panic amdfngst the Hindus, who seeing 
themselves deserted by their general, gave way and 
Hed also.” • 

It is clear that but for the operation of one cause, viz, 
the havoc caused by Anandapala’s elephant the battle might 
have remained indecisive for sometime and the circumstancs 
might have changed for the better. His successor Triloc- 
anapala 42 was, however, not devoid of heroic virtues like 

41 T. F* Vol. I, pp. 46-47. 

42 Dr. H. C. Ray (DHN1 I, p. 95) seems to believe, on 
the authority of Kalhana (Rajatarangini Eng. tr. Vol. I. 107), that 
in the last days of his struggle with Mahmud he sought and 
obtained the armed assistance of the Kashmiran King Sarifigra- 



I 5 2 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Rajyapala of Kanauj and showed the last flicker of deter- 
mination of opposing Mahmud till he was killed in battle 
in 1021 A.D. 43 His death created a chasm which could 
not be filled by another ruler. The Sahis disappeared as an 
independent power and their wholesale annihilation is surely 
indicative of Hindu India’s political misfortune. 

The Somnath Expedition is considered to be the most 
devastating military operation undertaken by Sultan 
Mahmud in Western India. It took place either in 1023 or 
1024 A.D. The authorities disagree on the exact date. 
But in the desert region of Rajputana this successful raider 
is said to have met with a rebuff at the hands of the Rajputs. 
An old Persian Chronicle 4 ' 1 preserves an account which runs 
as follows: 

“Shah Mahmud took to his heels in dismay and saved 
his life, but many of his followers of both seJces were 
captured , , , , , Turks, Afghans and Moghul female 
prisoners; if they happened to be virg’ns, they were 
accepted as wives by Indian soldiers... the bowels of 
others, however, were cleansed by means of emetics and 
purgatives, and thereafter, the captives were married to 
men of similar rank.” 4fl 1 

The truth of the incident quoted above remains to be 
tested before it is accepted in toto. The measures adopted 
by the Rajputs look like an attempt at absorption of forei- 
gners by a process of purgation. 

maraja (c. 1003-1028 A. D.). This of course could not change the 
fate of the Sahis and consequently of India. 

43 Sachau II, p. 13. 

44 The Tarik-i-Sorath, tr. by Ranchodji Amarji, Bombay 1882, 
p. 1 12. 

45 Quoted in K. M. Munshi’s — ‘The Glory that was Gurjara- 
de£a.’ Part III, p. 140. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


>53 


The kkigdom of Kasmira, then ruled by the Lohara 
dynasty, did not feel the full weight of Turkish arms nor did 
it submit to the Turuskus till two centuries had elapsed. 
The following note about Kasmira by Alberunl 46 ’ deserves 
mention : 

“Kashmir lies on a plateau surrounded by high 
inaccessible mountains. The south and east of thd 
country belong to the Hindus, the west to the various, 
kings... the inhabitants are particularly anxious about 
the natural strength of their country and therefore take 
always much care to keep a strong hold upon the 
entrances and roads leading into it. In consequence 
it is very difficult to have commerce with them” 

We learn from Rajataranginl 47 that Sultan Mahmud 
after his victory on the Tosi (modern Punch) over Trilocan- 
apala of* Lahore in 1013 A.D. advanced towards the 
kingdom of Kasmira and came away laden with immense 
booty. In 1015 he renewed his attack, and Firishta 48 gives 
an account of his ineffective Kasmira campaign thus : 

Mahmud in the year »A H 406 revisited Kashmir 
with his army in order to* punish some revolted chiefs 
and to besiege some forts which he had not reduced 
in his former expedition. The first of these forts 
was Lokhot, remarkable on account of its height and 
strength, and which entirely defeated the king’s utmost 
efforts; for, not being able to reduce it during the sum- 
mer season, he was obliged, on the approach of winter to 
abandon his enterprise and return to Ghazni.” 49 


46 Sachau I, p. 206 

47 Stein, Eng. tr., Vol. I, p. 107. 

48 Brigg’s tr. I, pp. 54-35. 

49 The historian of Kasmira dwells upon the efforts made by 



154 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

No further attempt at subjugation of the secluded, Valley 
was made either by the Ghaznivides or by Muhammad 
Ghurl- Well protected by nature, Kasmlra earned a respite 
for nearly* two centuries. 

C. The Second Kanyakubja Empire (c.Soo-1194 
A.D.) 

(/) The Gurjara-Pratiharas of Kanauj 

In the ninth century Kanauj once again entered 
upon a period of expansion and glory under the Pratlharas. 
She occupied an excellent position in the Indo-Gangetic 
plain, being eminently fit to be the capital of a big empire. 49 * 
It was a fortified city on the Ganges and was converted 
into a magnificient, wealthy and well fortified city nearly 
four miles long and a mile broad, furnished with numerous 
lofty buildings and adorned with many tanks and buildings.’ 
The greatest king of the house was Bhoja I. Epigraphic 
evidence 50 proves the vastness of his empire which extended 


the Sahi ruler after his defeat and their reaction to the Ghaznivide 
ruler thus : « 

‘The Hammira did not breathe freely, thinking of the super- 
human powers of the illustrious Trilocanapala’ (Rajatarangini tr. 
Vol. I, p. 107). 

49a For the strategic advantages of Kanauj, vide Beal : the 
Travels of Fa-hien XVIII, p. xliii ; Watters: Y. C , I. p. 341 and 
Cunningham A.G.I., p. 436. 

50 Inscription Nos. 542, 544 and 710 of KielKorp's List (Ep, 
Ind. Vol. V Appendix) & others; EHI, 4th Ed, pp, 293-94. 

A large number of epigraphs prove that their empire under 
Mihir Bhoja and Mahendrapala extended from the Karnal district 
in the Punjab to Bihar, and from the Kathiawar peninsula in the 
west to North Bengal in the east. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


*55 


from'tke Cis-Sutlej districts of tlie Punjab to the borders of 
Bengal. Bhoja’s successor Mahendrapala retained unimpa- 
ired the territories that he had inherited. The frequent 
onslaughts on the Pratihara power by the Rastrakutas of the 
Deccan, especially that of Indra III in about 916 A.D., 
destroyed the vitality of the empire, and so when Sultan 
Mahmud attacked Kanauj in 1018, the Pratihara Empire 
had lost its early military strength and energy. Rajyapala. 
is said to have submitted readily to the Sultan Mahmud, 
of Ghazni. 

As the eleventh century approached, Kanauj fell on 
evil days. Mahmud of Ghazni sapped its strength in 
1018 A.D. From that day to the battle of Tarain in 1192 
there was practically no paramount power in Northern 
India. The history of post-Pratlhara Kanauj of the Gahad- 
valas under Govindacandra and his grandson, — that of Aj- 
mere-Delhi under the Tomaras and the Chauhunas, though 
otherwise full of interest, is a woeful record of disunity, 
disruption and discord so far as India’s integrity and nation- 
al defence were concerned. The last bulwark of Hindu 
defence crumbled to pieces in* the second battle of Tarain 
(1192 A.D). 

(//) The Gahddvalas of Kanauj and Varanasi 

Candradeva of the Gahadvala clan is considered to be 
the founder of the Gahadvala or Rathor ruling dynasty in the 
second half of the eleventh century. His position was due 
to the occupation of Kanauj the acquisition of Ajodhya 
and Varanasi and the reduction of the Tomaras of Delhi to 
vassalage.® 1 The greatest king of the line was Govinda- 
candra (c. 1114-1154 A.D.), who, as the grants of his 

51 CHI, vol. Ill, pp. 5.09-10. 



x 5 6 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


father Madanpala and of his own show, fought many a 
battle to maintain his power. Not only did he extend his 
political influence up to Monghyr in south Bihar but also 
defend Banaras and other sacred cities against the Turks 
during the life-time of his father. 52 Regarding the exploits 
of this ruler Dr. H. C. Ray 53 observes : 

“The Muslim king, who is reported to have laid 
aside his enmity seeing the display of the prince’s 
matchless fighting, certainly belonged to the YaminI 
dynasty of Ghazni and Lahore. These rulers from 
time to time tried to emulate the victories of Mahmud 
by occasionally invading the Ganges-Yamuna valley... 
there seems little doubt that it was in these 
conflicts that prince Govindacandra distinguished 
himself.” 

It is interesting to note that in connection with the 
Muslim inroads a tax called “Turuska-danda” was levied on 
the subjects of the Gahadvala king. 54 This shows per- 
manent arrangement and anxious care for military defence 
of the country of the early Gahadvalas. 

Though himself a capab'e ruler and a good warrior, 
Jayacandra (1170-1194) committed the fatal mistake of 
quarrelling with the Cauhans of Ajmere and Delhi and of 
remaining a passive spectator when Delhi under Prthvlraja 
was struggling against the irresistible might of Mahammad 
Ghuri. The height of ill-feeling and feud between Jaya- 
candra and Prthvlraja concerning the latter’s carrying off 
the daughter of the former has been described in the Hindi 


52 Ep. Ind., IX, p, 324 & 327; Ep. Irtd. VII, pp. 115-116; 
JASB V. 1922. 

53 DHNI I, p. 514. 

54 IHQ June, 1949; Smith EHI. p. 4 oo £n, 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 1 57 

epic fand^Raso by Cand Bardai. The story given therein 
may n8t be true, but it reflects the temper and attitude 
of the Rajput princes in the crucial moment of their country’s 
history. North Indian politics seemed to depend not upon 
the principles of nationalism and co-operation but on personal 
jealousies. The battle of Chandrawar (near Etawah, U.P.) 
was the last battle-in which the existence of Hindu indepen- 
dence was at stake. The fall of Jayacandra signalised the 
end of Hindu resistance in all sectors — western, eastern and 
central. The following account of the battle of ChandrJ- 
war is gathered from the Taj-ul-Ma’asir-un-Nizami : 58 

“When the army was mustered, it was found to 
amount to 50,000 mounted men clad in armour and 
coats of mail with which they advanced to fight the 
Rai of Benares. The king ordered Kutubuddin to 
proeped with the vanguard, consisting of 1000 cavalry 
which fell upon the ‘army of the enemies of religion’ 
and completely defeated it. The Rai of Banares, Jai- 
chand, the chief of idolatry and perdition, advanced to 
oppose the royal troops with an army countless as the 
particles of sand. The [^ai of Banares who prided him- 
self on the number of his f9rces and war elephants, seat- 
ed on a lofty howdah, received a deadly wound from 
an arrow and ‘fell from his exalted seat to the earth.’ 
His head was carried on the point of a spear to the 
commander, and his body was thrown to the dust of 
contempt.” 

The battle, according to the Muslim historian, was deci- 
sive. It was not exactly the want of preparedness, or the 
numerical strength of the army or the palpable inferiority in 
military tactics that account for Jayacandra ’s defeat and 
death. With one-million troops (we do not know how 


55 Elliot, Vol. II, p/209. 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


i 5 8 

many cavalrymen and how many toot soldiers there were) 
and 700 elephants he boldly faced the enemy and Aet his 
fate. To oppose successfully the overwhelming cavalry 
charges he did not see his way to organise a confederacy 
of other Rajput rulers and increase the number of cavalry. 
In’his pride he forgot completely his own people and 
country. Though Col. Tod speaks of Jayacandra’s jealousy 
towards Prthviraja, it is too much to think that there was a 
conspiracy on the part of the former to invite Muhammad 
Churl and bring about the ruin of the latter who was his 
political rival. 56 Jayacandra was not at least a Pausanius or 
an Alcibiades. His attitude on the eve of the battle of 
Tarain does not show that he ever realised the common 
danger, and as Dr. H. C. Ray 57 points cut, ‘there is no evi- 
dence to show that Jayacandra, even from an intelligent 
perception of his own self-interest, co-operated in any way 
with the Cahamanas’. So far as the batile of Chandrawar 
and the fall of Kanauj are concerned, it is the head of the 
military organisation rather than the system itself that was 
in part responsible for the catastrophe. 

D. The Cahamanas of Sakamhari, Ajmere and Delhi 

The Cahamanas or Cauhans of Sakambharl, Ajmere 
and Rajputana made themselves masters of Delhi by defeating 
the Tomaras in the 11th century. The name of Vigraharaja 
II is associated with that exploit. In the famous Sibalak 
pillar inscription at Delhi (Feroz Shah ki-Lat) Bisaldeva 
(Vigraharaja II according to some, grandfather of Prthviraja 
II) claims the credit of clearing the country of Musalmans 
and of making it Aryabhumi again. 56 Prthviraja III, 


56 AHI (Macmillan), p. 278. 

57 DHNI Vol. I, P . 542. 

58 I. A. Vol. XIX, P . 209. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


*59 


(c. 1 179-1192), nephew o£ Vigraharaja IV, was the most 
illustrious ruler of Delhi and Ajmere on the eve of the 
Muslim conquest of Hindustban. His capital was a well- 
guarded city. The ruins of the fort of Rai Pithora.can even 
now be traced. 

“The fort of Rai Pithora, which surrounds the citadel of 
Lalkot on three sides, would appear to have been built to pro-, 
tect the Hindu city of Delhi from the attacks of Musalmans. 
The wall of the city is carried from the north bastion of* 
Lalkot called Fateh Bhuj to the north-east for three quarters 
of a mile where it turns to the south west east for 1 miles 
to the Dumdama Burj. From this bastion the direction of 
the wall for about one mile is south west, and then north 
east for a short distance to the south and of the hill on which 
Azim Khan tomb is situated. ..the fort of Rai Pithora 
in Delhi .proper is said to have nine gates besides the Ghazni- 
gate most of which can still be traced... the circuit of 
its wall was nearly miles... it possessed 27 Hindu 

temples of which several hundreds of richly carved pillars 
till remain to attest both to the taste and wealth of the last 
Hindu rulers of Delhi.” 59 , 

Prthvlraja’s wars and conquests, his chivalrous deeds 
and love adventures have found egression in the writings 
of his court poet Cand Bardai. Notwithstanding the 
high reputation and fame of the Chauhana hero, the politics 
of Hindusthan was at this time rotten to the core. All the 
Rajput clans— the Gahadvalas, the Chauhanas, the Candellas 
etc. had been engaged in interminable feuds to gain their 
selfish ends, forgetful of their heavy responsibility* i.e. 
India’s national defence. 60 Their attitude and position have 
been fittingly portrayed by Dr. H. C. Ray thus, — ‘Lulled 

59 Cunningham’s Archaeological Report 1862-63, pp. 183-184. 

60 Tod : Rajasthan Vol. I, p. 276. 



160 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

into a false sense of security by the temporary cessatipn of 
vigorous attacks from the weak successors of Mahmud, 
they carried on petty feuds and failed to notice the formi- 
dable storm cloud that was slowly gathering strength in the 
hijls of Ghur.’ 61 

The fall of the Ghaznivides and the rise of the princi- 
pality of Ghur in the hills of Afghanistan precipitated the 
evil hour of the Hindus in the plains. Muhammad Ghuri’s 
'victdrious march on India began in 1174 A. D. Having 
made himself master of Sind and the Punjab, Shabu-uddin 
Muh. Ghur! directed his attack on the Cahamana prince 
of whose heroism and military renown he was not aware. 
Prithviraja met the slowly moving armies of his opponent 
at Tarain, 82 a village between Thanesvar and Karnal. 
According to Firishta, Prthviraja’s army consisted of 200,000 
horse and 3,000 elephants. Unable to stand the cavalry 
charges made by the Rajputs, the Turkish army dispersed 
in all directions, and soon the Sultan, himself receiving a 
wound, was forced to leave the field. 83 - It was a terrible 
battle and a spectacular victory, too. Never did the Muslim 
arms meet with such a crushing defeat. In a sense it was 
a single-handed victory— ‘Jayacandra, the powerful ruler of 
Kanauj, who might have been of incalculable assistance, 
kept aloof, — nesistant and suspicious. But the revenge that 
was in store required better nerve, better resources and 
better understanding and co-operation to stave off the 
calamity. 


61 DHNI. I, p. 542. 

62 Tarain or Telwari, a village in the district andtashil Karnal, 
Punjab. ..14 miles south of Thanesvar and 84 miles north of Delhi 
on the Delhi-Umbala-Kalka Railway. Imp. Gaz. Vol. XXIII, 
p. 390. 

63 TN., p. 466. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


l6l 

The second clash with Prthvlraja took place on the same 
ground a year after, i,e. in 1192 A.D. Muhammed Ghurl 
made grand preparations to retaliate. At the head of a 
large and well-equipped army consisting of 120,000 men, 
Turks, Afghans and others, the Sultan marched towards 
Hindusthan in 1 92 A.D. 

The apprehension of a bloody contest with the ruler 
of Ghur did not leave Prthvlraja idle. The safety of Hindu 
India was at stake, and he called upon his fellow Rajput 
princes to rally round his banner to oppose the advance of 
the Turks. The response from the Indian chiefs was drama- 
tic, and in a short time he succeeded in collecting a huge 
army which, according to Firishta, consisted of 300,000 
horse and nearly 3,000 elephants, and 150 Rajput princes 
are said to have assembled in the camp. 04 The army collec- 
ted in the field was huge in number, and yet the Hindus 
failed to carry everything before them. 0411 A terrible battle 
ensued. It lasted from sunrise to sunset. The desperate 
charge made by the Sultan’s 12,000 mounted horsemen 
was too strong for the Allied Hindu host. The battle was 
lost, “one hundred thousand grovelling Hindus swiftly 
departed to the fire of hell,” 63 ’and Prthvlraja fled from the 
field according to Muslim chronicle**, but was captured and 
finally ‘despatched to hell’. The Hindu defence collapsed 
in the second battle of Tarain not because there was want 
of personal valour or of combination among princes, but 

64 T.N. Vol. I, pp. 463-69. TF, Vol. I, pp. 173-78. 

64a Relying on almost a contemporary historian Hasan Nizami 
and also Firishta, Dr. H. C. Ray seems to suggest that the second 
battle of Tarain was not perhaps a fair one and that 'M.uh. Ghuri 
really attacked the Hindu camp during a truce which the Cahama,na 
generals accepted as genuine’. DHNI Vol. II, p. 1091. 

65 Elliot II. 216. 


msai — x 1 



1 62 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

because the Indian leader Prthvlraja made some serious 
strategical errors and tactical blunders. It is well said that 
‘Tarain was essentially a general’s battle, — the triumph of 
genius in command, not of mere valour.’ 66 It is really 
stra'nge that Ghuri’s progress from Ghur to the Eastern 
Punjab by way of Peshwar was uninterrupted. 67 - In the 
second time the two armies should have met at a considera- 
ble distance from the scene of the first encounter, and steps 
should have been taken to oppose the enemy’s march at all 
costs. Commenting on the failure of Indian leadership on 
this occasion Dr. Chakravarty 68 observes : 

‘It is sad to reflect that after the first battle of Tarain 
(1191 A.D.) in which he (Prthvlraja) won a signal victory 
over his Muhamadan adversary, he (Prthvlraja) did not 
press his advantage to the fullest limit. Instead, he halted 
his troops, leisurely beseiged Sirhind, and neglected to take 
adequate precautions against the return of the Ghorian 
chief. It is true when next year Muhammad came back 
with a larger force, Prthvlraja fought out the issue with 
courage and determination, but no gallantry and no heroism 
can save a people from the results of neglecting war pre- 
parations.’ No organised offensive seemed to have emana- 
ted from the Hindu chiefs. India was on the defensive on 
every occasion against the Turks. That is the general 
impression that one gathers from the course of events in the 
period of Turkish onslaughts. 


Hindu Confederacies : Why did they fail ? 

From the time of Jayapala of Udabhandapur to that of 


66 AWAI, p. 196. 

67 DHNI Vol. II, pp. 1088-89. 

68 AWAL, p. 194. 



ARAB AND TURKISH MENACE 


163 


Prthvyraja* III of Ajmer and Delhi not one, but as many as 
three or four confederacies were formed to resist the foreign 
foe. The grim menace of a Turkish invasion compelled 
some of the north Indian states to lay side for a while their 
mutual hatred and jealousy. Curiously enough, each t>ne 
of these coalitions proved ineffective in the long run. The 
first battle of Tarain recorded the solitary instance of Indiari 
victory due possibly to the confederacy of princes under th? 
direction of Prthvlraja, although this, too, was shorn of its 
tower of strength, — Jayacandra of Kanauj having stood 
apart . 69 The second encounter, which should have by 
normal expectation put an end to all troubles, and the 
conquests that followed, were to demonstrate that the co- 
operation among the allied powers proved neither lasting 
nor warm and that the leadership of national defence was 
far from, satisfactory. One must not, however, lose sight 
of the gravity of danger and vastness of the area that had 
to be defended. But it is true that it was no new or un- 
expected attack. On the otherhand, one may take it as a 
new unwillingness to summon up courage and shake off 
pettiness rather than a state of unpreparedness that destroyed 
every prospect of success and survival. This reminds us 
of what Napoleon Bonaparte qnce said, “Better to 
have a known enemy than a forced ally.” The blunders 


69 It is probably the family quarrel between the Cahamanas 
and the Gahadviilas and their mutual political rivalry that made 
Jayacandra withhold his co operation in the first battle of Tarain. 
This reminds us of the attitude of Hindu Zamindars and the 
Nawab’s trusted officers that put Serajuddala to immense difficulties. 
Had the Hindu Zamindars and influential persons like Rani Bhabani, 
Rajballav, Krsna Candra of Nadia, Jagat Sett etc. helped the last 
independent Nawab in the hour of his peril, the history of Bengal, 
Bihar and Orissa would have been different. Serajuddoula by 
Akshoy Kumar Maitra, 6th. Ed, 1332 B.S. pp. 75 * 77 - 



1 64 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

committed between 1191 and 1192 by Prthviraja III 
in not acting according to the exigencies of the time 
and the failure of the joint endeavour would only show 
that division of India into small states, marked by 
the absence of a strong centre formulating a common 
policy and commanding a well disciplined army trained in 
offensive and siege operations, stood in the way of effective 
Rational defence. 



CHAPTER SEVEN 


THE MILITARY POWER AND ORGANISATION. 
OF THE GURJARA-PRATIHARA EMPIRE 

(C, 775 1018 A.D.) 

If the ninth and tenth centuries were evidently thfe age* 
in which India enjoyed full immunity from foreign attacks, 
it was beyond doubt the epoch of military renown and 
heroic exploits within, marked by the titanic, struggle for 
supremacy over the Ganges-Jamuna Doab among three prin- 
cely houses of Southern, Western and Northern India. Never 
were the clash of arms and greed for territories so great as 
in this period. The Rastrakutas of Mankir, the Palas of 
Bengal and Bihar and the Pratiharas of Western India 
appeared on the stage of Indian history as potential rivals, 
and the temporary eclipse of the Pala power at the hands of 
the Rastrakutas of the Deccan led to the emergence of the 
Gurjara-Pratiharas as the foremost power in Northern India. 
The Rastrakutas inherited the military capacity and conquer- 
ing zeal of the illustrious Pulakesi^II of the early Western 
Calukya dynasty and the Palas under Dharmapala had already 
proved their worth by establishing their authority in Eastern 
India and by interfering with success in the affairs of Upper 
India. In the traingular contest for sovereignty which 
began in the ninth century the Pratiharas came off with 
flying colours. 

The Gmrjara-Pratlharas were a new factor in North 
Indian politics. The Gurjaras arc first mentioned in Indian 
literature and inscriptions in the sixth century. The father 
of ‘Sakalauttarapathapati’ and his southern rival fought 
against the Gurjaras. They are mentioned in Buna’s Harsa- 



1 66 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


carita, in Hiuen Tsang’s Travels and in the Aihole inscrip- 
tion 1 oE Pulakesi II. At first, they established a number of 
principalities in Rajputana, Gujarat and in the Punjab. The 
Pratlharas' were an important branch of the Gurjaras and 
ruled in Malwa. They might have served as feudatories 2 
(door-keepers) to the Rastrakutas, and then rose to eminence 
under Nagabhata I and attained imperial status under 
Vatsaraja in about 783 A.D. Nagabhata II captured 
Kanauj, defeated Dharmapala and placed his own nominee 
Cakrayudha on the throne. In the heyday of their political 
greatness, particularly under Mihir Bhoja and Mahendrapala, 
their empire extended from ‘Pehoa in the Punjab to 
Deogarh in Central India, from Una in Kathiawara to 
Paharpur in North Bengal. 3 

The Gurjara-Paratlharas have been given a place among 
the Rajput clans of early mediaeval India. The foreign 
origin theory of the Rajputs started first by Col. Tod still 
holds the field inspite of the fact that many Indian scholars 
believe in the “Agnikula” theory and describe them*as full- 
fledged Ksatriyas claiming descent from the solar and lunar 
dynasties of the Vedic and Epic times. If it is conceded 
that the Gurjara-Pratiharas entered India along with the 
Hunas, it may well be presumed that their dash, daring 
and military ardour was foreign, and their great love for 
country and religion was Indian. These qualities probably 
enabled them to build up by force of arms an extensive 
empire, even bigger than that of Harsa of Kanauj. To rule 
over such a vast dominion and to defend it successfully 


1 Ep. Ind. Vol. pp. 1-12. 

2 S anjam Ins. El. XVIII.: 
Hist, of A. I., 5th Edn., p. 631 fn. 

3 Inscriptions Nos. 54 2 » 544 
Appendix) and others. 


Dr. H. C. Ray Chaudhuri, Pol. 
and 710 of Kielhorn’s List (El 



MILITARY POWER OF THE GURJARA-PRATIHARA EMPIRE 167 

required j powerful military organisation and this they ‘ 
possessed beyond any doubt. The poet Rajsekhara in the 
introduction of his Balabharata refers to the cross-country 
military exploits of MahipalaJeva. Even making some 
allowance for courtly exaggeration and poetic exuberance, 
one is tempted to think that the military organisastion of the 
Pratlharas was on a footing of efficiency in the time of 
Mahipala. Such wide-spread military triumphs were possi- 
ble many times in ancient and early mediaeval periods, viz.*, 
under Samudragupta of Magadha, Lalitaditya of Kasmirk 
and Harasa Siladitya of Kanauj. 

The Hindu military system, as it developed in the 
Gupta period (c. 320-550) and under the first Kanauj Em- 
pire (c. 600-650), did not undergo material changes in 
details in the age of the Gurjara-Pratlharas. We notice the 
same reLiance on the Caturangabala minus the Chariot which 
practically disappeared in the seventh century as one of the 
ahgas of the traditional Hindu army. 4 In matters of mar- 
ching, camping, garrisoning forts, military formations and 
siege operations, there was no positive improvement. There 
are grounds for believing th^t mounted archers 5 played a lead- 
ing part in the Gupta period. , After the fall of the Guptas, 
who introduced new methods of warfare, horse-archery, 
borrowed possibly from the Scythians 6 fell into disuse, and 
the use of heavy columns and mobile warfare 7 ceased to be 
the regular feature in Indian military history, and perhaps 
there was a return to static warfare as in the past. 8 But 
there is no denying the fact that the Pratihara kings main- 

4 Ban«Vs Harsacarita. tr pp. 224-25, Watters Y.C., p.239: 
P. C. Chakravarti: The Art of War in A I , pp. 25-26. 

5 Allan-Gupta Coins Pis. VIII, 11-19 & XXII. 

6 The Art of War, in A.I. by Dr. P. C. Chakravarti, p. 42. 

7 Raghu Vamsa. Canto IV. 

8 Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, 1949, p. 33. 



1 68 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

tained an efficient cavalry. Arab traveller Sulaim^n speaks 
highly of this important division of the army thus : — ‘the 
King of Jurz (pratlhara) maintained numerous forces and no 
other Indian prince had so fine a cavalry.’ 9 The possession 
of ? fine cavalry on which depended victories in battles in 
all ages was indeed a great asset with the Pratlharas and 
jliade their military organisation sufficiently strong and to 
some extent dependable. Another Arab traveller Al-MasudI 
(890956 A.D.) observes that they had to keep in readiness 
‘four mighty armies to meet enemies in every direction... 
the army of the north wars against the prince of Multan 
and with the Musalmans; his (the King’s 98 ) subjects on the 
frontier. The army of the South fights against Balhara, 
King of Mankir. The other two armies are in every direc- 
tion, 10 and each of them numbers 700,000 or 900,000 men. 
This probably suggests that the organisation of the Pratlhara 
army was made on a territorial basis, as was the case with 
the' Indian army before the Sepoy Mutiny i.c. in the 19th 
century. We hear of the Bombay Army, the Madras 
Army, and the Northern Army. 11 Military officers, bear- 
ing the title of Mahadanda-nayaka, Mahasenapati, Mahab- 
alabikrta, Maha Pllupati, etc. f existed as in the Gupta and 
Pala times. In all periods of India’s ancient history forts 
were considered a useful" item in the scheme of national 
defence. Each fort was in charge of an officer known as 
Durgadhaksya or Kottapala. 118 Prantapaias and Dvarpalas 


9 Elliot. Vol. I, p. 4. 10 Op. cit , p. 23. 

9a' ‘One of the neighbouring kings of India who is far front 
the sek is the Baiiiira, who is the lord of the city of Kanpuj’. 

1 1 State and Government in A.I., p. 146. 
na In. the time of the great Maratha leader Sivaji ‘every fort 
and thanah was placed under three officers of equal status, viz., the 
havtader, the Sabnis and the Sar-i-naubat, who were to act 
jointly’. Sarkar: Shivaji, 4th Ed., p. 346. 



MILITARY POWER OF THE CURJARA-PRATIHARA EMPIRE 169 

served .as officers to control the frontiers as Wardens of 
Marches. According to Dr. A. S. Altckar, ‘the same 
officer worked in both capacities as was the case under 
the Pratlhara at the fort of Gwalior whose comfnandant 
was • also Maryaldadhurya, or ‘the officer in charge pf 
boundary’. 12 

While the forces of the Pratlharas — infantry, cavalry 
and elephant corps, proved highly effective in all campaigns, 
their naval department, if it existed at all, occupied a minor 
position. The Pratlharas were essentially a land power: 
the question of naval defence was not very pressing, nor did 
their empire reach the sea eastward or westward. Shut 
out from the coast regions by the Palas in the east and the 
Arabs and the Rastrakutas in the west, they flourished 
most as an inland military power. But why did the 
Pratlharas fail to retain their military prestige and political 
ascendancy for a longer period? Unfortunately no Kautilya 
has left for us a detailed account of their military organisa- 
tion. The days of standing armies were no more. The 
superiority of India cavalry both in number and efficiency 
was possibly diminishing. .Like their predecessors, they 
depended to a large extent upon the contingents supplied 
by their Samantas and subordinate aljies. It is not difficult 
to imagine that in their constant warfare with Indian neigh- 
bours as also in relieving Arab pressure from the West, 
the Pratlharas in the bright days of their prosperity and in 
the dark hours of misfortune were aided substantially by a 
number of feudatory princes. Epigrapbic evidence 13 
proves that Malupala requisitioned the services cf his feudal 
chiefs with«a view to recover some portion of his empire. 


12 Ibid, p. 146. 

13 Ep. Ind. El. VH. i2'i6. 



I JO MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

Reliance on feudal levies and subordinate allies proved harm- 
ful to the empire in the long run. As Dr. H. C. Ray ob- 
serves, — ‘the incipient hostility of the Palas in the east and 
the powerful combination of the Rastrakutas and the Arabs 
were perennial sources of danger... the economic conse- 
quences of continuing such a struggle would have sapped 
the foundation of any empire. 14 Throughout the tenth 
century and the first quarter of the eleventh the defence of 
the North-Western India was ably conducted by the Hindu 
Sahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab against the Ghaznivide 
rulers, and the home territories of the Pratlharas enjoyed a 
brief period of relief till the hectic days of Sultan Mahmud’s 
lightning raids. India stood in need of reconstruction of 
her military system to cope successfully with the dashing 
cavalry charges of the Ghorian chief in the 12th century. 

The Cambay plates 15 of Govinda III prove the capture 
of Kanauj soon after 915 A. D. by Indra III. When Sultan 
Mahmud marched upon the city, the Pratlharas had lost 
their military strength and energy. As Firishta 1 * writes, 
‘Terrified by the force and formidable appearance of the 
invaders he (Koonwar Rai = Rjijyapala) resolved to sue for 
peace, and accordingly going out with his family submitted 
himself to Sooltan Mahmood.’ 

In conclusion, it may be stated with fairness that though 
the elimination of the Pratlharas as the formidable military 
power was unfortunate, they, nevertheless, rendered an 
excellent service to the country and to their religion Hinduism 
by keeping back the Arab thrust for nearly two centuries. 
A weaker power in Madhyadesa would certainly have 
facilitated Arab penetration beyond Sind witji a lot of 
changes in its wake. 


14 Dr. Ray : Dynastic History of Northern India Vol I, p. 579. 

15 Ep. Ind. VII. 38. 16 Brigg’s tr. Vol. I, p. 57. 



MILITARY POWER OF THE GIJRJARA-PRATIHARA EMPIRE 171 

Lis\ 0 4 Offices, Military and Foreign, under the 
Pratthara Empire 

I Military 

( 4 ) Senapati — Commander-in-Chief. 
fb) Maha-samanta — Feudatory prince of a higher rank, 
(c) Samanta — Feudatory prince of a lower rank. 
fd) Kottapala or Durgadhaksya — Officer in charge of' 
Forts. 

(<?) Prantapala or Dvarapala — Officer in charge of 
Frontier. 

(f) Provincial governors all charged with responsible 
military duties. 

(g) Maryadadhurja — Officer in charge of boundaries. 

II Foreign 

Duta (Hnvoys) to maintain regular relations with foreign 


countries. 



CHAPTER EIGHT 


MILITARY ORGANISATION OF THE 
PALA EMPIRE 

(C. 750-1150 A.D.) 

The military tradition and warlike tendencies of the 
people of Bengal and their rulers go as far back as the Epic 
and Puranic times. The Great Epic preserves an account 
of the great struggle of the Vangas, Pundras and Suhnias 
against the eminent Epic heroes like Krsna, Bhlmsena and 
Kama. 1 In the fourth or fifth century A.D. the people of 
Bengal had probably raised the standard of revolt against 
King Candra of the Meharauli. (Iron Pillar Inscription of 
Delhi). This king, whose identification is in dispute, 
destroyed the power of his enemies in the Vanga countries 
‘who offered him a united resistance’. 2 Proximity to the 
sea enabled the Gauda people to be a sea-faring nation. In 
the seventh century they appeared as a great military-power 
under Sasanka, 2 ® King of Karnasuvarna or Western Bengal. 
In the 8th Century the Pala Kings of Bengal carved out 


1 Mabht. Sabha Parva. Bhisma Parva. 

2 CII. III. 1 4 1 . King Candra is sometimes identified with 
Candragupta II. For arguments vide Select Inscriptions by D. C. 
Sircar, p. 275 fn. 

2a The state organisation in independent Bengal under Sasanka 
was similar to that of the Imperial Guptas. The monarch was 
dependent on feudal aristocracy. The gradation of feudal chiefs 
seems to rest upon the extent of land under their control, the 
political status they enjoyed and personal influence they had at the 
court of the paramount power. (Dr. N. R. Ray’s article in 
Caturanga, Pous B. S. 1352). 



MILITARY ORGANISATION OF THE PALA EMPIRE 1 73 


for thepiselves an extensive dominion in Eastern India and 
under Dharmapala and Devapala the country attained the 
status of a north Indian power by means of wars and con- 
quests. 3 They ruled for over three centuries rfnd raised 
Bengal to the position of eminence, politically and culturally. 
The military organisation and defensive arrangements of the 
Palas who built up a strong and fairly big kingdom and. 
held it for a pretty long time, is not a matter of minor 
importance. The land-grants of the Pala Kings give* us rf 
long list of officials, 4 both civil and military, and although* 
it is difficult to determine the functions of these officials in 
every case, the list serves our purpose, giving us a fair idea 
of the organisation of the Pala State. 

1. Army 

As to the composition, the Pala army must have been 
composed of foot soldiers, mounted soldiers, elephants, ships, 
herds of cows, buffaloes, goats and sheep. 5 The Nalanda 
Copper plate No. 3 of Dharmapala refers to the traditional 
five-fold division of the army, viz. cavalry, infantry, chariot, 
elephants and navy. 6 During his campaign against the 
Kaivartas, Ramapala, as the Kamacarita 7 informs us, made 
liberal distribution of wealth and land to his feudatories to 
raise a powerful army consisting of cavalry, elephants and 
infantry. The use of chariots on a large scale had fallen 
into the background since the time of Harsa. But the 

3 Khalimpur grant of Dharmapala (Ep. Ind. IV. 213). 
Monghyr grant. of Devapala (Ep. Ind.XXlII. 293). 

4 HB. Vol. I. Chapter X. Appx., pp. 284-89. 

5 The expression ‘naubala-hastyasva-go-mahish-ajavik-adi-Vya- 
pr taka’ occurs in the grants of the Candra, Varman and Sena Kings 
of Bengal. (The Ramganj CP of Isvaraghosa of Dhakkari (IB 149). 

6 HB. Vol. I, p. 279. 

7 RCI. 43. 44-45. / 



74 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


reference to an official called ‘Gaulmika’ is an iodic^tion of 
chariots being one of the constituents of the army. ‘Gaulmika’ 
was probably an officer-in-charge of a military squardon 
called Gulma, consisting of 9 elephants, 9 chariots, 27 horses 
and 45 foot soldiers. 8 There are illustrations of chariots 
and armed warriors in the Paharpur Plate No. LVI1 (History 
of Bengal Vol. I). 

As regards the method of recruitment, the probability is 
that ‘men from different provinces of India formed part of 
the army as was the practice prevalent in ocher parts of the 
country in previous ages. Inscriptions mention Gauda 
forces, besides men belonging to die tribes like Malava-Kas- 
Karnata-Lata-Choda etc. Dr. Majumdar 9 writes, — ‘The 
mention in the Pala records of a number of tribal names 
along with the official may be taken as referring to the 
military units recruited from other tribes 9a ...the fact that 
there is no reference to these tribes in Khalimpur Copper 
plate of Dharmapala, might lead one to presume that this 
military organisation was not fully developed till towards 
the close of his reign. The name ‘Gauda’ in the list is 
certainly very interesting and possibly refers to soldiers 
recruited in the home territory of the Palas.. % h is obvious 
from this list that ch,e Pala Kings recruited mercenary 
soldiers from all parts of India.’ 

It may be mentioned here that as late as the time of the 
Vijaynagar Empire (1336-1600 A.D.) some parts of the 
army, viz, the infantry and the cavalry were recruited from 
all classes and creeds including Muslims. The use of 

8 HB. Vol. I app. A, p. 285. Dr. Fleet transates it as 
'Superintendent of wood and forest’ (CII. III. 54. fn. 4). 

9 HB. Vol. I, p. 279. 

9a The words Chaca-bhata which follow these tribal names 
mean regular and irregular troops (CII. Ilf. 98 7. 



MILITARY ORGANISATION OF THE PALA EMPIRE 


elephants, comets and artillery has been proved from foreign 
accounts . 10 

Nothing definite is known regarding other important 
military matters such as plans of campaign ancF general 
methods of warfare. But the reference in the Pala records 
to an officer called ‘Mahavyuhapaci’ certainly points to the 
formation and use of different kinds of battle-arrays already 
noticed in the time of Kautilya and the Ma'habharata as an 
essential part of military strategy, and the History of Bengal 11 
would have us believe that “marches of each element in 
dense formations were the general rule in military move- 
ments”. The appointment of officers like ‘fCottapala’ 
(in charge of forts ) and ‘Antapala’ (in charge of frontiers ) 
and the employment of messenger spies show the efficiency 
of the Defence Department of the Pala empire lla . The 
recruitment of mercenary soldiers and the long list of officers 
maintained by the state would clearly suggest that the 
entire army establishment received salaries in cash and the 
contingents supplied by Samantas fought on behalf of 
their overlord and acted possibly on the basis of feudal 
obligations. 


10 AHl, pp. 382-83. 

1 1 Vol. I, p. 280. 

1 la The mention in the Irda Copper plate of the Kamboja King 
Nayapala of the Adhyakshavargga — the Senapati, the Sainika- 
Samgna-mukhya, the Duta, the Gudha-purusa, and the Mantrapala 
(political advisers) has enabled Dr. R. C. Majumdar to opine that in 
the Military ^Department 'there were various organised units whose 
chiefs assisted the commander-in-chief. The Foreign Department 
seems to have two distinct branches, one dealing with general policy 
regarding external affairs, and the other corresponding to ah Intelli- 
gence Department, whose fields of activities lay in foreign countries.' 
(H.B. Vol. I, p. 283). 



1 76 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


2. Navy 

Bengal built up early a naval tradition. The 
account of the conquest of Lanka (Ceylon) by 
Vijaysimha, son of Simhabahu as preserved in the Pali 
Chronicles of Ceylon is an echo of Bengal’s naval activities 
and military exploits. Thrown into the arms of the sea and 
noted for nautical aptitude, the people of Bengal utilised 
their naval resources to the fullest extent. Kalidasa 13 has 
meritioned the naval force of the country by referring to 
Raghu’s conquest of the Variga chiefs with their fleets. 
Epigraphic evidence proves the existence of harbours and 
dockyards in the sixth century A.D. A copperplate grant 
of Dharmaditya 13 dated 531 A.D. mentions ‘Navata-Ksenl’ 
or a ship-building harbour. ‘The Arabian sea was used 
mainly for trade purposes, the Bay of Bengal was different. 
The supremacy in that sea was naval and political, .based on 
an extensive colonisation of the islands and it ceased only 
with the breakdown of Cola power in the 13th century’, 
so says Panikkar, 14 while describing the influence of sea 
power on Indian history. By the time the Palas became 
the dominant power in Bengal, and Bihar, the importance 
of the navy was fully realised, and we shall not be far from 
the truth if we say thap it formed a regular feature of their 
military operations. Ua Three well-known epigraphic records 
may be quoted in this connection. The Khalimpur 
copperplate 16 of Dharmapala runs thus : 

12 Raghuvamsa IV. 36. 

13 I. A. XIX, 1910, 1 95f . 

14 India and the Indian Ocean: Chapter II, p. 28. 

14a The Y uktikalpataru, a work written in the 1 ith century, 
mentions three kinds of ships. The author refers to 27 other types 
of vessels the largest of which being 276 ft. and 2,300 tons in 
weight. For details see R. K. Mookherjee — Indian Shipping, 
pp. 21-24. 

15 Ep. Ind. IV. 299. 



. MILITARY ORGANISATION OF THE PALA EMPIRE 177 

<*N©w — from his royal camp of victory at Pataliputra, 
where the manifold fleets of boats proceeding on the 
path of Bhaglrathl make it seem as if a .series of 
mountain-tops had been sunk to build another causeway 
(for Rama’s passage)”. 

The Kamauli grant 18 of Vaidyadeva states that in the. 
reign of Kumarapala he (his favourite minister) obtained a 
naval victory in South Bengal. Moreover, the Sena jking 
Vijaysena (c. 1095-1198) led a naval expedition to thef 
West and advanced along the course of the Ganges. 1 - 
“We may infer” writes the History of Bengal, “from the 
above passage that Vijaysena’s victorious fleet sailed westward 
beyond Rajmahal”. 

The records referred to above are sufficient materials to 
warrant the conclusion that the Pdla kings maintained a 
powerful navy and exercised some sort of control over the 
sea. It is no exaggeration to say that the Gauda people, 
who had built up a naval power and who have been des- 
cribed as living on the sea-shore (Samudrasraya) in the 
Haraha Inscription 18 of 554 A.D., left their naval traditions 
as a legacy to their successors — the Palas and the Senas of 
Bengal. It can, therefore, be affirmed that had any attack 
like that of the Arabs on Thana in the early eighth century 
been launched by way of the eastern shore, the result might 
have been quite different. Like the people of Bengal in 
the Hindu period, did not the people of Maharastra under 
Sivaji show that “the Hindu race can build a nation, found 
a state, defeat enemies and conduct naval battles on equal 
terms with foreigners”? 19 In proportion to their ambition, 

1 6 Ibid., II, 35 1 * 

17 I.B. III. 54. 

18 Ep. Ind. XIV. p. 1 10 Et. Seq. 

19 }. N. Sarkar — A Short History of Aurangzeb, p. 240. 


msai — 12 



i 7 8 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


resources, and military abilities, the Palas did much fighting, 
adding and losing territories in their struggle with other 
Indian ^states and finally leaving a name behind in the 
dynastic chronicle of Northern India. Their long and 
successful rule over a wide area in the teeth of opposition 
from their acquisitive neighbours bears testimony to their 
stable governmental organisation. But one thing that 
.strikes us is that their regime synchronises with a period of 
Indian History in which Eastern region’s placid calm was 
not disturbed nor its ability to defend itself tested by any 
terrible invasion from outside. Being far away from the 
storm-centre of North Indian politics, and freed from the 
restraining influence of a central authority, Bengal and 
Bihar did not feel the tremor of Sultan Mahmud’s terrific 
thrust. When the Muslims fell upon them, the Pala power 
was a mere shadow of its former-self territorially and 
militarily , 20 and, therefore, quite unable to defend itself. 
The loss of Bengal to the Senas and the subsequent con- 
quest of Bihar and part of Western Bengal by Ikhtiyar-Ud- 
din Muhammad, son of Bakhtiyar Khalji point to the same 
conclusion, although the exrent and importance of such 
conquests mi 
historians. 21 

3. Officials of Military Department 

From the Pala, Varman, Candra and Sena imscriptions 22 
the following list of officers for War and Peace may be 
drawn up: — 

20 For weakness of the successors of Kumarapala and their 
inability to defend themselves against attacks from outside and 
within, sec H.B. Vol. I, p. 170. 

21 H.B. I, p. 224. 

22 Ibid, I. Appx., pp. 284-89. 


ght have been unduly exaggerated by Muslim 



MILITARY ORGANISATION OF THE PALA EMPIRE 179 


7 . Army 

Mahasenapati or Commander-in-chief. 

2. Senapati or Commander of the Army. 

3. Kottapala or Officer in charge of Forts. 

q.. Gaultnika or Officer in charge of a Military 
Squadron. 

5. Baladhyaksa or Officer in charge of Infantry. 

6. Mahaganastha, probably a military officer. 23 

7. Mahabaladhikaranika or officer in charge of the 

Military Secretariat. 

8 . Prantapala or the Warden of Marches. 

77 . Navy 

1. Nakadhyaksa, probably a mistake for Navadhyaksa 
• or Naukadhyaksa or Superintendent of Ship. In 
the Sena period this officer was renamed ‘Nau-bala- 
Vyaprtaka’. 24 

III. Foreign Department 

1. Maha-Samdhi-VigrahiUa or Minister in charge of 

Peace and War. 

2. Duta or the Ambassador. 

The military failure oE a nation depends on many things. 
The defeat of the Bengalee people at the hands of the Turks 

23 “Gana denotes a body of troops consisting of 27 chariots, 
as many, elephants,' 81 horses and 135 foot” H.B. Vol. I, p. 288. 
The officer has 4 aeen mentioned in the following epigraphs : — 

(1) Khalimpur plate (Ep. Ind. IV. 233) 

(2) Belava grant of Bhojavarman (Ep. Ind. VII. 40) 

(3) Tarpandighi grant of Laksmanasena (Ep. Ind. XII. 9) 

24 “The use of the term "bala” after ‘‘nau" brings out the 
real character of fleet”. A.W.A.I., p. 6 z. 



l8o MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

at the time of Laksmanasena, in many respects an enlighte- 
ned and capable ruler, 25 does not prove that they never 
learnt tQ fight and organise themselves for defence and that 
cowardice had been the badge of their life. The people of 
Bdngal have been displaying military skill and orgahising 
capacity ever since the days of the Mahabharata, The 
‘ common notion given wide currency during British rule in 
, India that the Bengalees are a non-martial race seems incredi- 
. ble'when the glorious military records, both legendary and 
historical, of the country and its people are taken into 
critical consideration. 26 The reverses that the Bengalees 
suffered at the hands of the Turkish general in about 1 199 
A.D. do not tell of personal frailties or the frailty of a 
particular class, but of the system to which the nation and 
the country as a whole stuck. 


25 Tabaqifti Nqsiri Raverty’s tr., pp. 555*56; H.B. Vol. I, 

p.219. '■ 

26 Compare History of the Sepoy Mutiny : Kaye and 
Malleson. Vol. I, p. 149, 

"A battalion of Bengali Sipahis fought at Plassey, side by side 
with their comrades from Madras... that the Bengali Sipahi 
was an excellent soldier, was freely declared by men who had 
seen the best troops of the European powers.” 



CHAPTER NINE 


BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM* 

It is a matter of common knowledge that ancient 
Indians were not concerned solely with art, literature, reli- 
gion and philosophy. War and diplomacy, expansion "and 
imperialism occupied much of their time and energy. They 
ruled empires, trained and fashioned soldiers, led armies in 
battles, created navies, erected fortifications, planted colonics 
and carried on diplomatic relations with neighbouring coun- 
tries. But the underlying principle behind India’s foreign 
poilcy in the past was peace and not aggression. Jingoism 
was* not her message. She never sought dominion over 
others,— she lived in peace with her neighbours and the 
world outside. Indian statesmen have always been guided 
by diplomacy and not force . 1 The importace of the army 
in relation to the state did not diminish in the eyes of Indian 
political thinkers even in the time of Sukra, who observes, 
— “King is the root of the tree o£ state; the ministry is its 
trunk, the military chiefs are branches, the army are the 
leaves of the tree, and the subjects are its flowers, prosperity 
of the country its fruits and the whole country the final 
seed .’ 2 The Doctrine of Mandala 3 or the Statal circle, — the 
so-called twelve states, five in front of Vijiglsu (Central 
state desiring conquest and expansion?) and four in the rear 
together with ‘Madhyma’ and ‘Udaslna’ was considered by 


1 Smith. Oxford History, p. 84. 

2 Nitisara (B. K.. Sarkar’s tr.),V. 12. 

3 Kautilya — Arthasastra (Shyama Sastry's tr.), pp. 312-13, 
317-20, Inter-state Relations'in Ancient India by Dr. N. N. Law. 



182 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


ancient writers to be the most convenient injtrupient for 
regulating interstate relations and diplomacy. The chief 
purpose of the Mandala consisted in the determination of 
the courses of action (six in number, viz. Sandhi, Vigraha, 
Yana, Asana, Samasraya and Duidhibhava) to be adopted by 
the Central state in the interest of its own maintenance and 
extension. The traditional four-fold or five-fold army des- 
cribed in the Epic and Puranic literature with some addition 
and alteration remained the principal pillar of strength from 
the time of Alexander down to the end of the Early Medi- 
eval period. After the break-up of the mighty Maurya 
Empire (c. 185 B.C.) the defence of India’s north-west 
frontier became a great problem. Repeated foreign inroads 
—the coming of the Greeks, Sakas, Parthians, Kusanas, 
Hunas and Gurjaras and their settlement in the country 
showed unmistakably the inferiority of the Indian cavalry 
when compared with the strength and mobility of mounted 
soldiers who came from outside. The rise of powerful 
dynasties and well-otganised kingdoms and their strong 
determination to free India from foreigners resulted in 
the extermination and to some extent the absorption of the 
foreign races making India^their temporary abode. But from 
those difficult days of insecurity and weakness to the stormy 
times of the Turkish raids and conquests, India had been 
suffering from that handicap. No attempt was made to 
remove this disability and consequently it remained a weak 
spot on India’s national defence. In the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries A.D. the Hindu military system which was 
at its best in the time of Candragupta Maurya, stood dis- 
credited. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude that the 
gradual decay of powerful ruling dynasties in Northern 
India and steady deterioration of the art of warfare had 
much to do with the headlong fall of Hindu kingdoms and 
their loss of independence. The collapse of the Hindu 



BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 183 


military system was primarily due to three causes, viz, (a) 
military, (b) political, and (c) social. 

(a) The feeble resistance offered by the Hindu states 
sprang from a cause which was neither sudden nor ‘unexpec- 
ted.. The apparent weakness of Indian horsemen botlj in 
number and efficiency has been present ever since the raid 
of Subuktigin on the dominions of Jayapala of Bhatinda., 
India was never a good horse-breeding country and always 
suffered from the scanty supply of horses. Only Sicdhtr, 
Balhika and Pragjyotisapura and Kamboja were noted for 
herse and have received unstinted praise from the Mahabha- 
rata, Kalidasa and Kalhana. So good horses were available 
only in the north and west, the east and south suffered 
greatly in this respect. The Venetian traveller Marco Polo 4 
who visited India in the 13th century stated that a large 
number jof horses were imported into southern India from 
Arabia and Persia. Malabar was particularly unsuited for 
breeding of horses. The climate of South and East India 
was not suitable for horse-breeding. Moreover, the position 
of the Indian cavalry as it stood at all times warrants the 
conclusion that ‘the cavalry never came to occupy the front 
rank in the army organisation of ancient India; it never in 
fact came to form the core of a Hindu army.’ 5 6 

Muslim historian have attributed the astounding suc- 
cesses of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad Ghurl in 
their Indian campaigns to the skilful use of a well-trained 
and well-disciplined cavalry.® When judged in this light, 


4 Yule. Marco Polo II. 342. 

Also C/o Kautilya — ‘The breed of Katnbhoja, Sindhu, Aratta 
and Vanayu countries are the best’. (Bk. II. Chap XXX). 

5 Dr. P. C. Chakravarty — The Art of War in Ancient India, 
p. 36. 

6 Elliot, vol. II, 38, 51, 131, 248, 295-6. 



184 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


the paucity and incompetence of ancient India’s cavalry^ may 
be put down as one of the reasons why Muslim invaders 
proved better fighters and won easier victories. The best 
horse-br®sding grounds in Asia were under Muslim control. 
Thus, while for the above reason Indians failed to bring 
into the field numerous horses, Muslim invaders had their 
unfailing recruiting grounds in Asia. Sultan Mahmud and 
Muh. Ghurl were generals of exceptional ability and took 
advantage of the tactical blunders committed by the defen- 
ders of Indian freedom. It may be incidentally mentioned 
here that the weakness in respect of cavalry, artillery, martial 
technique, manufacture of firearms, education and develop- 
ment of character, was noticeable even in the 18th and 19th 
centuries when the Marathas, a great military race, gave 
way to the English. Dr. S.N. Sen 7 observes, — ‘The Marathas 
had long been familiar with artillery and firearms, but they 
neglected to learn the science and technique of these valu- 
ble weapons and continued, till their final overthrow, to rely 
for their supplies on the European settlements at Bombay 
and Goa.’ 

Then again, another weak spot in Indian military system 
has been searched out by Sir. J. N. Sarkar 8 who ascribes the 
failure of Indian armies against Europeans in the 18th 
century to their want of education and development of 
character. It is said that greatness in a general consists in 
his making as few mistakes as possible and in profiting by 
those of his enemies. One of the main causes of Hannibal’s 
early success against Romans in the Second Punic War 
(218-216 B.C.) was the personal element of his own genius 
and strategical blunders committed by the Roman general 


7 Military System of the Marathas, pp. 258-59. 

8 Fall of the Moghul Empire, yd. IV, p. no. 



BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 185 

because of the divided command. 9 In this connection one is 
remin 3 ed of the famous maxims of Napoleon — “Unity of 
command is the first necessity of war.” If divided command 
was one aspect of Indian failure, the ignorance of* what is 
called “shock tactics”, i.e. surprise attack simultaneously and 
from different directions etc. was another. Nor is there any 
instance on record of guerilla warfare or employment of 
Periclean or Fabian strategy. The Indian rulers opposing 
the Muslim invaders made use of one tactics, — vij. the 
defensive, whereas the latter were seen to regard the offensive 
‘as a fundamental proposition of warfare*. The Muslim 
tactics and resources were suited to the requirements of the 
time. Then again, the elephant corps, employed in almost 
all the theatres from the battle of the Hydaspes to that of 
Tarain became, in the ultimate analysis, a strength of doubt- 
ful value. The elephants running amock and doing havoc on 
the battlefield were responsible for the defeat of such stout 
heroes as Puru and Anandapala of the Punjab. Although 
profuse praise has been bestowed upon war elephants’ use- 
fulness and serviceability in big campaigns, they often 
proved a dangerous element, falsifying the anticipations of 
ancient writers like Kautitya 10 and comparatively recent 
writer like Kamandaka. 11 Thdse considerations bring us to 
the point of thinking that ‘the Hindu military organisation 
was obsolete presenting a sad contrast to the organisation 
discipline and leadership among the Muslims .’ Dr. D. C. 
Ganguly (Proceedings of the Indian History Congress 1949. 
p. 1 23) opines that ‘the rules of warfare and the code of 
morals which guided the combatants of the Mahabharata 
war, guided also the Kings and Generals in the battlefields 

9 J. Wells: A short History of Rome, p. 117. 

10 Arthasastra Bk. II. Chapter II. 

ix Nitisara XVI, 10 - 12 . 



1 86 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


throughout the ages before the advent of the Moslems. 
Onslaught on the rear or on the flanks of the enemy was 
regarded as a sinful act. To advance in pursuit of a retreat- 
ing army was considered unchivalrous.’ Another recent 
writer says, — ‘The armies of the invaders (Arab, Turkish 
and Afghan) were never very large 12 and their success 
was partly due to their superiority in equipment and the 
art of war.’ 13 Every Muslim was a fighter and Islam 
served as a great unifying force. 

* (b) Of the political causes of the military debacle of 

the 1 2th century in N. India, the first importance must 
be given, as most writers have done, to the division of India 
into innumerable small principalities without cohesion, with- 
out a sense of unity for the common purpose. The aims 
and ideals of the ruling houses working at cross-purposes 
rendered a united stand fruitless, and their sudden hall might 
properly be assigned to the fact that they, unlike the Muslim 
invaders, were not perhaps prone to fight for a cause, — reli- 
gious or political. Secondly, the state and army organisa- 
tion of the Rajput princes, who were left to defend the vast 
country from the successive blows of the Turks and Afghans, 
was feudal in character. The* army consisted chiefly of 
contingents supplied by Samanta chiefs. Such a feudal 
army was hardly dependable or efficient. The princes them- 
selves were no doubt patterns of heroism and courage, but 
the army on which they relied, being mostly Samanta forces, 
obeyed their overlord, and not unoften seized the opportunity 
of combining against him when, for one reason or the other 


12 The second part of the statement does not appear to be 
true. C/o the number of the Arab expeditionary forces under 
Muh. Bin Kasim as stated by Elliot (Vol. I Appendix, pp. 434-35) 
on the authority of Arab writers. 

13 Coupland — India (A re -statement), p. 6. 



BREAKDOWN of HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 187 

lie happened to be weak. The king was the pivot of the 
state the security of which hinged upon the loyalty of his 
fief-holders. When there was peace in the country the 
vassals became restless and when external dangers threatened 
them, their services were not always as valuable as they 
should have been . 14 A new phase in ancient Indian polity 
may be discovered from the Gupta period onwards There 
were clear signs of feudal tendencies which resulted in the 
speedy growth of a number of feudal chiefs bearipg the 
titles of Samanta, Mahasamanta, Senapati, Mahasenaparti, 
Maharaja, etc. These chiefs enjoyed local autonomy while 
paying allegiance to the Gupta sovereign as their suzerain. 
Even the country-wide military exploits and conquests of 
Samudragupta failed to bring the whole of India under his 
direct administration. A uniform administrative control 
over areas lying outside the Gupta dominion being impossi- 
ble owing to the separatist trend in Indian politics, a com- 
promise was worked out between strict imperial control and 
full local autonomy. The Gupta emperor had to fall back 
upon the Kautilyan ideal of “Dharmavijaya.” It is permis- 
sible to point out that all empires or consolidated kingdoms 
were, for all practical purposes, no better than confederation 
of vassal states from the fourth century A. D. The feudal 
character which the Indian army tiud government assumed 
in the Gupta age continued right upto the end of the Pala 
period. Rajputana was the home of Feudalism and the 
Rajput states retained this character all through, a govern- 
ment that fostered isolationism and stood in the way of 
coalition of political forces to combat a common danger. 
“The main ‘reason why the Muslims so easily obtained their 
hold in Ihdia” says Mr. Coupland, ‘‘was the failure of the 
Hindu Kingdoms to combine against them. In the Middle 


14 Ishwari P, — History of Muslim rule, pp. 21-22. 



1 85 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

■ages, at any rate, Christian Europe did better in this respect. 
French troops crossed the Pyrenees to help the Spaniards. 
The Crusades, despite their undercurrents oE intrigue and 
greed, wece a genuine manifestation of the unity of Wes- 
tern Christendom.” 15 It seems quite true that the imperial 
sway or political supremacy either in Northern India or 
Southern India was not accompanied by a stable equilibrium 
due to internal disruption and discord. The question of 
national defence and territorial security was thrown into the 
cold shade of neglect. The lesson of history has taught 
Modern India to think of that eternal problem of the 
country’s defence against foreign attack. Before India 
attained freedom in 1947, Indian leaders of thought raised 
the cry of “Undivided India” — “Union with a strong 
centre” solely in the interest of unity, uniformity and mili- 
tary defence. 

Turning now to India south of the Vindhyas, we notice 
the utter incompetence of the South Indian states like Deva- 
giri, Dorasumudra, Telingana, Tanjore and Madura to cope 
successfully with the new Muslim master of the North. 
This fact perhaps supplies an illustration of the general belief 
that imperial sway in India was, due to the operation of 
many causes, out of gear, and even superiority in number 
and organisation of unions failed against foreign onslaught. 
If coalitions succeeded, they succeeded only against neigh- 
bouring kingdoms — the North against the South, the East 
against the West, but never effectively against a formidable 
foreign foe. Patriotism ceased to be the effective instru- 
ment of national defence. Self-interest and mutual jealousies 
were of greater concern than the interest of the country as a 
whole. Political revolutions taking place in distant or near 


15 India, p, 6. 



BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 


regi(Ji*s saarcely raised an echo in the minds of the masses. 
The people did not feel that they were a nation. Speaking 
of the causes of ancient India’s political decline fysirkumar 
Mitra writes : — “The cultural and spiritual unity remained 
almost in tact, no doubt, but the country had little political 
integrity worth the name, mainly because the society, — 
always in ancient India the basis of her political structure- 
had ceased to be a cohesive force in the communal conscious- 
ness of the people.” 16 

(c) The subjugation of such a vast country with age- 
long civilisation could not be effected and the stately fabric 
should not have crumbled unless some forces other than poli- 
tical and military had been at work slowly but surely sha- 
king the entire foundation. This would lead us to the 
consideration of the social causes of the fall of the Hindu 
kingdoms in the 12th and 13th centuries. Instances were not 
rare in the period under review when Indian fatalism served 
to a large extent to enfeeble the will to resist in the face 
of a danger of the gravest magnitude. We meet with 
cases where consultations were held with astrologers to 
ascertain the inevitable. Two such instances are on record. 
At the time of the Arab invasion of Sind, Dahir, King of 
Alor, said to an astrologer, “I must fight to-day; tell me in 
what part of the heavens the planet Venus is, and calculate 
which of the two armies shall be successful and what will 
be the result.” The astrologer replied, “According to the 
calculation the victory shall be to the Arab army, because 
Venus is behind him and in front of you.” Rai was angry 
on hearing this. The astrologer said, “Be not angered, but 
order an image of Venus to be prepared in gold.” It was 
made and fastened to his saddle traps in order that Venus 
might be behind him and he might be victorious.” 1 - Laks- 

16 The Vision of India, p.133. 

17 Elliot Vol. I. (Chachnama), p. 169, 



MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


I90 


manasen, the last Independent ruler of Bengal corvened a 
meeting of astrologers, wisemen and counsellors after the 
fall of Behar and sought their advice. Relying on the Sastras 
they predicted that Bengal would fall into the hands of the 
Turks the following year, and requested him to move from the 
country so that they all might be safe from the molestation 
of the Turks. According to Minhaj-u-din, 18 a large number 
of Brahmins and others fled, although the Rai himself did 
not take the fatal step. Making allowance for some measure 
of exaggeration by historians, we must not ignore the fact 
that superstition, fatalism and panic played their part in 
bringing about the collapse of the Sena resistance in connec- 
tion with the Nadiya raid of c.i 197-98 A.D. 19 

Some writers, e.g. C.V. Vaidya 20 are disposed to regard 
the caste system as one of the contributory causes of the 
down-fall of Hindu independence. Nobody can deny that 
the caste system, the bedrock of the Brahamanical social 
organisation, divided the community into separate compart- 
ments, made unity difficult and exercised an unwholesome 
influence on the life of the people. But the system which 
took root in the third century B.C. and stood the test of time 
(some three thousand years) did not prevent India from creat- 
ing big empires and defending them against foreign 

18 DHNI I., pp. 372-73. According to the chronicler of the 
Nadiya raid, Laksmanasena was himse'f a man of courage and 
military abilities. This is corroborated by the epigtaphic records 
of his reign. A great responsibility rested no doubt with Laksmana- 
sena’s military officers and advisers. (History of Bengal Vol. I, 
pp. 244 & 246). The fall of the last stronghold of Hindu power 
in Eastern India proves, above all things, that the country’s military 
system had already broken down for want of improvement it 
needed. 

19 For difference of opinion on the date see AHI, pp. 279- 
80 fn. 

20. Medieval India Vol. III. Chap, XXII, p. 355. 



BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 191 

attacks. - The Maratha leader Sivaji’s empire was 
based on Hindu principles of caste and dharma 
as laid down in the Arthasastra and the Spkranlti, 
yet Shahji’s illustrious son held his own and could not 
be checked by the Moghuls of Delhi, the Portuguese 
of Goa and the Abyssinians of fanjira. It did not take away 
the power of Hindu resistance in an appreciable manner,* 
either in ancient, mediaeval or modern times. Concerning 
the question whether the endless ramification of caste \frhich 
was at its height in the Hindu period seriously affected 
recruitment to the army, Dr. Chakravarty 21 has conclusively 
proved by reference to ancient texts that the military profes- 
sion was no monopoly of any particular caste. As in 
Mediaeval Europe, so in Mediaeval India fighting was the 
sole occupation of feudal knights. So, the enrolment of all 
the classes or the masses was possible neither in India nor in 
Europe till the dawn of the modern age. 

One writer 22 has gone to the length of suggesting that 
in early mediaeval period Hindu intelligence found expres- 
sion more in poetics and dramaturgy than in the careful 
cultivation of the art of war and that the army consisting 
chiefly of contingents supplied by Samantas was not reliable 
either in respect of number or efficiency. In the circumstan- 
ces, neither caste nor the doctrine of Ahimsa which is said to 
have affected the food of the people and made them physi- 
cally weak, was the real explanation of the catastrophe over- 
taking India in the 1 2th century. The loss of political 
freedom was not an isolated phenomenon. It must have 
been preceded' fey social stagnation and moral decay . 

Prof. Mohammad Habib in his introduction to Elliot 

2t The Art of War in Ancient India, pp. 78-82. 

22 S. K. Das— The Educational system of the ancient Hindus, 

p. 194. 



I92 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

and Dowson’s History of India as told by its own«histeorians, 
(vol. II, p.37) has started a new theory to explain the cause 
of the collapse of Hindu rule and the advent of Turkish 
suzerainty in Mediaeval India. His thesis is that social rather 
than military reasons lay at the root of the Ghorian conquest 
of Northern India. He observes, — “What is called the Mus- 
•lim, but is really the Ghorian conquest of India, meant two 
things, — (1) the substitution of the Ghorian Turks for the 
‘Thakurs’ as the governing class, and (2) the enfranchise- 
ment of the Indian city-workers, accompanied by a consider- 
able land-slide among them to-wards the new faith.” 

The tendency to luxurious living and moral dissipation 
of the Hindus as portrayed in the ‘Glta-Govinda’ and the 
‘Pavanaduta’ composed by the court-poets of Laksmanasena, 
in the “Naisadcarita” written in the court of Jayacandra of 
Kanauj, in the “Sisupalabadha” composed in the 'court 'of 
the Valabhl King, appears in all its nakedness. The Sisu- 
palabadha 23 contains descriptions of prostitutes accompanying 
as camp-followers in the army of Srikrsna and of the resort 
to hard drinking by Jadavas, male and female. 24 * As the 
people had no share in the gov«rnment and as there was a 
frequent change of dynasties *o£ autocratic rulers, it was but 
natural that they (the*peopIe) would grow indifferent to 
political revolutions in the country. In the days of Hindu 
decadence the system of giving extensive training to the 
soldiers as enjoined by the Ramayana, the Arthasastra and 
the Sukraniti was not strictly adhered to. The feudal char- 
acter of the Rajput government and army from which the 
masses were completely divorced was an additional reason 

23 Magha’s Silupalabadha XII. V. 27. 

24 It will be of interest to say that Shivaji’s ‘strict enforce- 
ment of morality in his camp was a wonder in that age and has 
extorted the admiration of hostile critics like Khafi Khan.’ (Sarkar 
— Aurangzeb, p. 239). 



BREAKDOWN OF HINDU MILITARY SYSTEM 193 

why che people refused to be interested in such matters as 
the nafties*and antecedents of persons occupying the thrones 
of Delhi, Kanauj, Varanasi or Gauda after the destruction of 
some of the Rajput ruling houses. The apathy of ehe com- 
mon man to the political fortunes of his country was much 
in evidence. 

Conclusion 

The probable explanation of the fall of the Hindu states 
is not one, but many. Mass indifference, internal decay, 
deterioration in the method of warfare and superior military 
abilities of the Turks coming from cooler regions with a fund 
of redoubtable energy and flashing promptitude were the 
four important factors which contributed to the collapse of 
the Hindus. Dr. P. C. Chakravarty 25 seems to think that 
the invaders, e.g. the Turks possessed moral virtues (by 
which ha means courage, energy and determination) in a 
larger measure, and he goes on to say that “a civilised and 
prosperous community... is not a congenial soil for the natur- 
al development of these virtues, and the Hindus were infini- 
tely more civilised and prosperous than the Turks.” There 
is much force in Dr. Chakravflrty’s argument that the Hindus, 
when they reached the highest point of civilisation failed to 
retain moral virtues in an equal degree with the invading 
Turks despite their age-old military tradition with its emph~ 
asis on endless wars and ceaseless extension of territories etc. 
It is true, as Lord Bryce points out rightly, that ‘there is no 
necessary connection between a fighting quality and an 
intellectual quality ’. 36 This suggests a parallelism between 
Hindu downfall and the fall of the Roman Empire in the 

25 AWAI, p. 192. 

26 War and Human Progress — Lecture delivered in 1916 at 
the Birmingham University by Lord Bryce. 


MSAI — 13 



1 94 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

/ West at the stress of Germanic tribes. The cause of the 
fall of the latter with a boundary in no way less extensive 
than that of Hindu India, was both military and political. 
In the words of Davis 27 the real cause was a moral evil, the 
decay of civic virtue. By moral evil he does not mean 
deterioration in private life. "It is a mere superstition”, he 
says, "that every victorious race is chaste and frugal, just 
and law-abiding or that ill-success in the struggle for exis- 
tence is a symptom of the contrary vices. In many respects 
the Greeks who submitted to Philip and Alexander were 
morally superior to the victors of Salamis and Plataea. 
Private and political morality may spring from the same 
root, but the one has often flourished where the other has 
been stunted.” 

But at the same time History, ancient and modern, does 
not furnish us with a single example of a country going 
down before an invading horde and losing political 'freedom 
without some serious internal disruption and decay. Thus 
the main reasons why a vast and highly civilised country 
like India succumbed to external attack appear to be her 
incipient internal weakness and possession of a higher tech- 
nique of warfare by her enemies. The absence of a higher 
technique of warfare in the early Mediaeval period together 
with the country-wide internal disorder, a legacy of centuries 
of inaptitude and inertia, was bound to create an alarming 
situation. Such was the real picture when the curtain 
dropped down upon the Hindu political drama. The errors, 
imperfections and slacknesses of the past, let us hope, will 
not repeat themselves. The national defence of the present 
must be relevant to the present and not to the past. 


27 Medieval Europe, p. 18. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

A 

Original Sanskrit and Pali Works mostly in Translations 

1. The Hymns of the Rgveda, translated by R. T. H. 
Griffith. 2 vols. 

2. The Veda of the Black Yajus School entitled Tak- 
tirlya Sarhhita, translated by A. B. Keith. 2 vols., Har- 
vard Oriental Series, vols. XVIII & XXIX. 

3. Atharvaveda Saifthita, translated by W. D. Whitney. 
Revised and edited by C. R. Lanman, Cambridge, Mass., 

4. Satapatha Brahmana, S.B.E. vols. XII, XXVI, XLI, 
* XLIII & XLIV. 

5. Aitareya Brahmana, vols. XLIII & XLIV. 

6. Original Sanskrit Texts — John Muir, 5 vols., 1868- 
1884. 

7. Mahabharata, translated into English by P. C. Roy, 
Calcutta, 1919. 

8. Ramayana, translated into English by M. N. Dutta, 
Calcutta, 1892-94. 

9. Ramayana, translated into English by R.T.H. Griffith. 

10. Baudhayana Dharmasutra, S.B.E. vol. XIV. 

11. Gautama Dharmasutra, S.B.E. vol. II. 

12. Asvalayana Grhya Sutra, edited by Ganapati Sastrl. 

13. Manusarhhita, S.B.E. vol. XXV. 

14. Vasistha Dharmasutra, S.B.E. vol. XIV. 

15. Kautilya Arthasastra, translated by S. Sastri, Mysore, 

I 9 2 3 * . ... 

16. Kautilya Arthasastra, translated into Bengali by 

Dr. R. G. Basak, Calcutta, 1950. 



196 MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 

17. Kamandaka, Nitisara, Beng. tr. by Ganapati Sarkar, 
Calcutta. 

18. Somadeva Siiri, Nltivakyamrta published by Grantha- 
malir, Bombay. 

19. Bhojaraja'—Yuktikalpataru, edited by Isvar Candra 
Sastri, Calcutta, 1917. 

20. Vaisampayana'— -Nitiprakasika, edited by Gustav Op- 
pert, Madras, 1882. 

21. Sukracarya'—Nitisara, translated into English by B. K. 
Sarkar, Sacred Books of the Hindus, Allahabad, 1914. 

22. Agni Purana, Eng. tr. by M. N. Dutt— -the Wealth 
of India. 

23. Matsya Purana, edited by Panchanana Tarkaratna. 

24. Visnu Purana, translated by H. H. Wilson, vols. 
VI to X. 

25. Markandeya Purana, translated by M. N. Dutt — the 
Wealth of India. 

26. Dhanurveda Samhita of Vasistha, Beng. tr. by 
Pandit Isvara Candra Sastri and Arun Chandra Sinha, 
Mymensingh, Bengal, 1922. 

27. The Jataka, translation under the editorship of E B. 
Cowell, 6 vols., Cambridge, 1895. 

28. Mahavamsa, translation by Geiger and M.H. Bode. 

29. Bana'-'Harsacarita, Eng. tr. by Cowell & Thomas, 

i 8 97 - 

30. Kalhana— 'Rajataranginl, tr. by Sir Aurel Stein, 
2 vols. 

31. Kalidasa 1 — 'Raghuvathsa. 

32. Magha'-'Sisupalabadha, edited by P. Durgaprosad 
and Pandit Sivadatta. 

33. Visakhadatta 1 — >Mudraraksasa, edited with Eng. 

translation by M. R. Kale, Bombay, 19x1. 

34. Ramacarita of Sandhyakara Nandi, edited by M. M. 
Haraprosad Sastrl. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


l 97 


B 

Foreign Accounts 


(a) Classical ; — 

Mc’Crindle, J.W. — Ancient India as described'by 
Megasthenes and Arrian, 1926. 

Mc’Crindle, J.W. — Ancient India as described by* 
Ptolemy, 1885. 

Mc’Crindle, J.W. — Ancient India in cla’ssical 
literature, 1901. 

Mc’Crindle, J.W. — The Invasion of India by Al- 
exander the Great, 1896. 

Herodotus'— History — translation by Rawlinson, 

London, 1858-60. 

Thucydides'— History of the Peloponnesian war, 
translated by Richard Crawley, 1876. 

Plutarch’s Lives — Translated by John and William 
Langhorne, London. 

(b) Chinese : — 

Beal, Samuel — Buddhist Records of the Western 
World, 2 vols, 1906* 

Beal, Samuel — The Life of Hiuen Tsang, London, 
191 1. 

Watters, Thomas — On Yuan Chwang’s Travels in 
India, London, 1904-05. 

(c) Mtthammedan : — 

Sachau, E.C. — Alberuni’s India, 2 vols., London, 
1901, Kitab-ul-Hind of al-Berunl. 

Elliot and Dowson — History of India as told by 
her own historians, 2 vols., London, 1877. 



200 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


11. A History of Rome — ... E. S. Shuckburgh. 

12. History India Part I, Macmillan R. Aiyenger; 

13. The Art of War in Ancient 

India, Calcutta, 1943 ... Dr.P.C.Chakravarti 

14. An Advanced History of India, Drs. Roychaudhuri, 

Macmillan, 1946 ... ... Majumdar & Dutta. 

15. The Corporate Life in Ancient 

India, Calcutta, 1922 ... Dr. R.C. Majumdar. 

16. Hindu Colonies in the Far East 

Calcutta, 1944 ... ... Dr. R.C. Majumdar. 

17. Early History of the Dekkan, 

3rd Edition ... Sri R.G. Bhandarkar. 

18. Early History of India including 
Alexander’s Campaign, revised 

by S.M. Edwardes, Oxford, 1924 Dr. V.A. Smith. 

19. Oxford History of India, 1924 ... Dr. V.A. Smith. 

20. The Heart of Hindusthan, 

Madras, 1945 ... ... Sir S. Radhakrishnan. 

21. Cambridge History of India, 
vols. I, II & III 

22. Buddhist India, Indian Edition, 

Calcutta, 1950 ...‘ ... Rhys Davids. 

23. Dynastic History of Northern 
India, vols. I & II, Calcutta 

University, 1931 & 1936 ••• Dr. H. C. Ray. 

24. Hindu Scriptures (Everyman), 
edited by Nicol Macnicol, 

London, 1938 

25. Political History of Ancient Dr. H. C. Ray 

India, 3th Ed., Calcutta, 1950 Chaudhuri. 

26. A New History of the Indian 

People, vol. VI Dr. R.C. Majumdar 

& Dr. A. S. Altekar. 

27. Rigvedic India, Calcutta, 1925 Dr. A. C. Das. 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 


201 


28. Studies in Indian Antiquities, Dr. H. C. Ray 

* Calcutta, 1932 Chaudhuri. 

29. War in Ancient India, Madras, 

* 94 ^ ••• ... Prof. R.C.DiJkshitar. 

30. Carmichael Lectures, First Series, 

Cal University, 1919 ... Dr.D.R.Bhandarkur. 

31. Annals & Antiquities of Rajasthan, 

edited by William Crookes ... Col. Tod. 

32. A Short History of Muslim Rule 

in India, Allahabad, 1931 ... Prof. Ishwari PrOsad. 

33. Medieval India ... ... Prof. Ishwari Prosad. 

34. Medieval India ... ... S. Lane-Poole. 

35. Medieval History (European) ... P. V. N. Myers. 

36. Inter-state Relations in Ancient 

India, Calcutta, 1929 ... Dr. N. N. Law. 

37. Studies in Indian History and 

Cillture, Calcutta, 1925 ... Dr. N. N. Law. 

38. Military System of the Marathas, 

Calcutta, 1928 ... ... Dr. S. N. Sen. 

39. India (A Re-statement) ... Prof. R. Coupland. 

40. The Early History of Bengal, 

Oxford, 1925 ;.. ... F. J. Monahan. 

41. The Vision of India, Jellco 
Publishing House, Calcutta, * 

1949 ... ... Sisir Kumar Mitra. 

42. India and the Indian Ocean ... K. M. Panikkar. 

43. The Educational System in 

Ancient India ... ... S. K. Das. 

44. Fall of the Moghul Empire, 

vol. yi • ... ... Sir J. N. Sarkar. 

45. Hindu Polity, Calcutta, 1924 K. P. Jayaswal. 

46. An Imperial History in a Sanskrit 

Text, London, 1934 ... ... K. P. Joyaswal. 

47. Studies in Social Polity ... Dr. B. N. Datta. 



202 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


48. The Story of Civilisation ... Willdurant. 

49. Pre-historic India, (Penguin), 

1950 Stuart Piggott. 

50. Marco Polo, 2 vols., London, 

1903 ... ... Sir Henry Yule. 

51; Handbook of Greek Constitu- 
tional History, London, 1928 A. H. J. Greenidge 

52. Ancient Indian Historical 

Traditions, London, 1922 ... F. E. Pargiter. 

53. A History of Indian Shipping and 
Maritime Activities, London, 

1912 ... ... Dr. R. K. Mookerji 

54. The Rigveda (the life in Ancient 
India, translated by Arrow Smith, 

Indian Edition, 1950) ... Adolf Kaegi, 

53. A Short History of the Saracens Syed Ameer Ali. 
36. Medieval Europe (Home 

University Library) ... ... H. W. C. Davis. 

57. The Army of the Indian 

Moghuls, London, 1903 ••• W- Irvine. 

58. The Vedic Age, (Allen & Unwin 
Ltd., London, 1951) 

59. History of Kanauj, Benares, 1937 Dr. R. S. Tripathi 

60. State and Government in Ancient 

India, Benares, 1949 ... ... Dr. A. S. Altekar. 

61. Alexander the Great, 2 vols., 

Cambridge, 1950 ... ... Sir W. W. Tarn. 

62. The Classical Age, edited by 

Dr. R. C. Majumdar and Dr. A. D. 

Pusalker, Bharatiya Vidya Bhaban 
Bombay, 1954 

63. Intercourse between India and 

the Western World, Cambridge, 

1916 ... ... H. G. Rawlinson. 



INDEX 


A 

Ajanta, 6 

Agrammos, army strength of, 

64 

Ahimsa, effects of the doctrine 
of, 191 

Ajatsatru, 61 

Alexander, the great, 62. 65, 66, 
68, 70, 71, 72, 84 
Ali Murad, prehistoric fortifica- 
tion at, 6 
A 1 Ma’sudi, 168 
Ambulance, 46, 47, 95 
Anasah, 10 

AnafidapalcT, 149. 150, 131 

Antiochus Ijll, 106-107 
Ao-rnos, 84 

Arab conquest, its nature, 145 
— failure of, 146 
Aibela, 62 

Archery, mounted, 1 18 
Arms, defensive and offensive, 
3 2 - 34 > 53 > 55 

Armoury, Superintendent of, 91 
Army, division of, 39. 40, 88, 
122, 129, 168, 173 
— twofold, 39 
— fourfold, 39 
— sixfold, 3961 
— eightfold, 39 • 

— units of, 56 91, 92 

— organisation of. 22, 26, 76, 
78. 173, 1715 
— Recruitment, 39 
— merits, 40 


— in tbe Indian States' 64 
— on the march, 46, 132 
— salaries and allowances, 41* 

Arsenals, 26-29 

Art of warfare in the Vedic 
India, 9-34 

Aryan-Dasa conflict, 9- 1 1 

Asoka, 61, 76 

Asa mi, 182 

Asirgarh (fort), 83 

Avatana (shield), 55 

Axes, 33 

Ayodhya, 17 

Azes I, 1 18 

Azes II, 1 18 

Azilises, 118 

B 

Baladhaksya, 78, 179 
Ban a, 132 

Banners, 26, 32, 53 
Battfe-axe., (see Kuthara) 
Battle-array (Vyiiha), 44, 45 
Bactrtan Greeks, 103- 107 
Bharhut, no, hi 
Bhcri, 32, 77fn. 

Bhaskara Varman. 131 
Bhoja, King of Dhara^ 5 
Bimbisara 18, 60, 61 
Bow, 26, 33 

Military, political land social 
causes, 181, 194 
C 

Candragupta. Maurya, 4, 61, 74, 

76 

Candragupta I, 112 



204 


MILITARY SYSTEM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


Candragupta II, 112, 114 
Canakya, 61. 75 
Camfi (army), 95 
Cavalry, 23, 65, 129, 168 
Chariots 3Q, 64, 66, 77, 117, 
122, 126, 128, 129, 134 

.Chandrawar, battle of, 157 
Contingents, allied, 88 
Corps, elephant, 134 
— camel, 134 

. D 

Dahir, 139, 140, 143 
Daidhibhava, 172 
Davids Rhys, 38, no 
Definition of ancient India, 1 
Defence — in the northern and 
tran -Vindhy an regions, 

1 05- 1 09 

Dhanurveda, 2, 5, 26 

E 

Epic military Code, 57, 59 
Espionage, in the Vedic age, 92, 

93 

— in the epic and puranic litera- 
ture, 31 

F 

Feudal element in the Gupta 
army, 117 

Firishta. 144, 146, 147, 150, 152, 
133, 160, 161, 170 
Forts, encampment and forti- 
fication in the epic and 
puranic literature, 47 48 

--natural- and artificial iforti- 
fication of capital cities, 48 
50 


— as described by Kautilya, 94, 

Foreign invasions and military 
achievements, 1 03- 1 04 

G 

Graeco-Indian Conflict, 65, 68 
Gurjara-'Pratiharas, 165-167 

H 

Hajjaj, 139 

Harsa, 65, 126, 130, 13 1 , 132 

ns 

Hereditary troops, 88 
Herodotus, 63fn 
Hindu confederacies, why failed, 
162-64 

Hiuen Tsang, 128, 129, 131, 132 
Hopkins, 40, 50 
Horse-archery, 117, 118 
Hunas, 115 

Hydaspes, battle of the, 68-74 

I 

' Imperialism of Eastern monar- 
chies, 42-44 

Indra III, 170 

Indus Valley civilisation, at 
Mahenjo-daro and Harappa, 
archaeological discoveries, 1, 
2 

— weapons of offence and defence 
from the remains un- 
earthed, 32, 34 
Infantry, role of, L5 
— equipment of, 25 

I 

Jayacandra, 156, 157, 158 
jayapala, 146, 147, 148, 149 



INDEX 


205 


K 

KalidasJ? 10^. 122 
Kanauj, strategic advantages of, 
*54 

Kamandaka, Nitisara of, 5, 185 
Ksvaca (body armour), 55 
Kautilya, the age of, 

— army units described by, 91, 
Q2 

— diplomacy, 92, 94 
—classification of forts, 94, 95 
— military system in, 86-91 
— Red Cross, 95 
— military department, 95-102 
Kohtras Buthi, fortification at, 
6 

Kottapala, 171, 179 
Kraunefa, (a kind of battle or- 
3 ei), 45 

Kuthara (axe), 33, 54 
Ksatriya, the rise of, 19-21 
— the role of, 38 

L 

Laksmanasena, 179 
Lamghan, the battle of, 147, 
149 

Lokhot, 153 

M 

Mahendrapala, 166 
Mahasenapati, 119 178 

Massaga, 83 

Mahmud, 146, 149, 150, 151, 

132, i$3> *55* *7° 

Malloi, 64 # 

Mandala, doctrine of, 181, 182 
Magadha, rise of, 60-102 
Maritime activities 120-22 
Megasthenes, 77. 85, 87 


Mihir Bhoja, 166 
Military music, 26, 52 
Military strategy of the Guptas, 
124, 125 

Military architecture growth of, 
85 

Military system, as outlined *in 
epic and puranic literature. 

35-59 

—Code, 57, 59 
— in Kautilya, 86, 91 

- in the Sunga-Kanva period,* 

105-106 

— in the Gupta period, m-125 
— in the Gurjara-pratihara 
period, 167, 168-170 

- in the Pala period, 172-178 
— causes of breakdown of the 

Hindus, 181-194 
Muh, bin Kasim, 139 140, 143 
Muh. Ghuri, 156, 158, 161, 

162 183, 184 

N 

Nahapana, 108-109 
National defence, cities and 
their defences, 82-86 
Navigation, aerial, 30 
Navy, in the epic and puranic 
literature, 44 

- in the Maurya period, 78, 81 
— in the Gupta period, 123, 

124 

— in the Pala period, 175, 177 
Nitiprakasika, 5, 96fn 
N'ltivakyamrta. 5 

O 

Officials, of the defence organi- 
sation, 96, 1 18, 1 19, 120, 

171, 178, 180 



2o6 


MILITARY SYSTLM IN ANCIENT INDIA 


P 

Patti (infantry), 22 
Plutarch, 71, 73 
Prthv’iraja, 158, 159, 160, 161, 
l62 V , 163 
Prthvisena, 90 

Political condition from the 6th 
Century B.C., 2, 3 
Polybius, 106 

Porus (Puru), 63, 66, 70, 72 
Pulakcsin II, 65, 128 
Pusyamitra, 105 

Pu tanas, their historical value, 37, 

38 

R 

Rajendrc Cola I, 121 
Rajputs, 136, 138 
Recruitment of troops and gene- 
rals, 90, 132, 176 
Roads for civil and military pur- 
poses, 81, 82 

s 

Sanchi, Stupa at, no, hi 
S andhi (Peace), 182 
Satavahanas, 107-109 
- -Satakarni I. 107 
— Gautamipu tra, 1 08- 1 09 
— fall of, 109 
SenanI, 22 

Senapati 36, 96, 97, 171, 178 
Seleucus Nika tor, 75, 76 
Sea navigation, 29-32 
Skanda Gupta, 115, 116 117 
Sources for the study of the sub- 
ject under review, 3-7 
Spies, as a regular part of the 
army, 92-93 
Subuktigln, 147 

Sukra, 5. 87^, 8960, 94fn, 134, 

181 


T 

Tain, Sir, W. W, , 71-73 
Tarain, battles of, 160, 161 
Ten Kings, battle of the, n 
Territorial expansion of the 
Vedic tribes, 16-19 

Tiomara (Javelin), 53 
Tribal conf edqrations, 1 1-13 
Tribal Kingship, evolution of, 

13-16 

'Turuskadandia, 156 

u 

’Utbi, 148 

V 

Vaidya, C.V., 190 
Vaidyadeva, 90, 177 
Vaisampayana, 5 
Varman, (see Kavaca), 55* 
Vasistha, n 
Videha, 18 
Vigraha (war), 182 
Vijayasena, 177 

W 

Warfare, secret, 92 
— mobile, 125 
— methods of, 23, 24 
War matters in Indian coins 
and sculptures, 109-m 

X 

Xerxes, 63 

Y«< 

Yana (marching), 182 
Yantra, 34 
Ya^odharman, 126 
Yukti Kalpataru, 94, 177^1 



ERRATA 


J age 

Line 

5 

• 16 

i i 

18 

2 5 

3 

2 5 

2 3 

2 

16 

44 

Section 5 

12 

26 

°9 

Section 3 

130’ 

*3 

36 

18 

4 ° 

fn. 9 

163 

*3 

169 

20 

186 

*5 

186 

20 

187 

2 1 

188 

1 

GO 

OO 

2 

192 

•8 


Read 

Nitiprakasika 

Confederation 

of 

decision 

Visnupurana 

battle-array 

They 

War matters 
Sudjifangabheda 
as Ksatriyas 
Futuh-al Buldan tr. 
Hitti & Murgotten 
Consequences 
Indian 

Cross-purposes 

Princes 

Empires 

Ages 

Pyrenees 

His 


For 

Nitprakaslke 

Canfederatior 

or 

decisan 

Visnupurana 

battle-army 

Their 

War-matters 
Surangabheda 
as a Ksatriya 
Futuh-al Baldan tr. 
Hitti Mergotten 
Conquest 
India 

Cross-purques 

Prinees 

Empores 

ages 

Pyrennes 

This